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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Where are all the “characters”?

British Brooklands.

Motor sport today lacks “characters”. There is nobody like Count Jenatzy who held the World Land Speed record of 65 mph in his electric car La Jamais Contente and was accidentally shot by his friend in the Ardennes.

The Brooklands track was built in 1906-7 by Hugh Fortescue Locke-King, an enthusiast who did not drive, to give the British motor industry a venue to develop their automobiles. In those days the speed limit was 20 mph.

Our Hugh was a well heeled gentleman as the Brooklands track cost GBP 150,000 to build (in the old money). To construct the track, 30 acres of woodlands were cleared, the River Wey was diverted in two places, 200,000 tons of concrete was poured and 200 carpenters were hired to construct fences and stands.

The famous bankings, called the Members and Byfleet, were 28 and 21 feet high.

The Locke-Kings took many European tours, and it was on one of these that Hugh saw the (then) dominance of the Italian cars and decided to build a track for the British manufacturers.

Locke-King was reported as being a master of jigsaw puzzles and who bred pedigreed French poodles, while his wife drove fast cars, including V8 Fords and was made a Dame of the British Empire for her charity work for the Red Cross during WW 1.


Mantovano Volante – a real racing driver

Tazio Giorgio Nuvolari (16 November 1892 – 11 August 1953) was an Italian racing driver. First he raced motorcycles and then he concentrated on sports cars and single-seaters. Resident in Mantua, he was known as 'Il Mantovano Volante' (The Flying Mantuan) and nicknamed 'Nivola'. His victories—72 major races, 150 in all, included 24 Grands Prix, five Coppa Cianos, two Mille Miglias, two Targa Florios, two RAC Tourist Trophies, a Le Mans 24-hour race, and a European Championship in Grand Prix racing. Ferdinand Porsche called him “the greatest driver of the past, the present, and the future.”

Nuvolari started racing motorcycles in 1920 at the age of 27, winning the 1925 350cc European Championship. Having raced cars as well as motorcycles from 1925 until 1930, he then concentrated on cars, and won the 1932 European Championship with the Alfa Romeo factory team, Alfa Corse.

His bravura is the stuff of legends. Nuvolari and co-driver Battista Guidotti won the Mille Miglia in a Zagato-bodied Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS, becoming the first to complete the race at an average of over 100 km/h (62 mph). At night, leading on elapsed time but still lying behind his teammate Achille Varzi on the road (because he had started after him), he tailed Varzi at speeds of up to 150 km/h (93 mph) with his headlights switched off, so that he could not be seen in the other car's rear-view mirrors. He eventually switched them on to overtake “the shocked” Varzi near the finish at Brescia.


In 1931, regulations for the season required Grand Prix races to be at least 10 hours long. Contrast that with the two hour F1 races of today.

For 1935, Nuvolari set his sights on a drive with the German Auto Union team. They lacked top-line drivers but relented to pressure from Achille Varzi, who did not want Nuvolari in the team. Nuvolari then approached Enzo Ferrari, who at first rebuffed him as he had previously walked out on the team. Italy's Prime Minister Mussolini helped persuade Ferrari to take Nuvolari back.

This was the year that Nuvolari achieved the 'Impossible Victory', which many regard as the greatest win in all of motor racing history, driving an outclassed Alfa Romeo P3 (3167 cc, supercharged, 265 bhp) in the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, he beat all the dominant German cars — five Mercedes-Benz W25s (3990 cm³, 8C, supercharged, 375 bhp (280 kW) driven by Caracciola, Fagioli, Lang, von Brauchitsch, and Geyer), and four Auto Union Bs (4950 cc, 16C, supercharged, 375 hp (280 kW) driven by Rosemeyer, Varzi, Stuck, and Pietsch). The crowd of 300,000 applauded Nuvolari, but the representatives of the Third Reich were not pleased.

There are many other examples of Novolari’s amazing talent behind the wheel, but the one I like best is his taking a gramophone recording of the Italian national anthem to the Grands Prix, just in case the organizers did not have one for when he was the winner (which was often)! 70 years ago, men were men.

At his death, between 25,000 and 55,000 people, at least half the population of Mantua, attended his funeral in a mile-long procession, with the coffin placed on a car chassis that was pushed by Alberto Ascari, Luigi Villoresi, and Juan Manuel Fangio.


Luxury carmaker Maserati focuses production on Italy

Milan (AP) — Luxury carmaker Maserati said Thursday it would invest 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) as it boosts Italian production with a new super-sports car and a utility vehicle as well as the launch of a hybrid version of the successful Ghibli sedan.

Maserati, which is owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, is counting on the key product launches for a turnaround after a tough few quarters marked by lower sales and dealer stock reductions. The 1.6 billion euros in investments is part of 5 billion euros that Fiat Chrysler announced for Italy last year for the years 2019-2021.

Hybrid Maserati Ghibli.

The hybrid Ghibli will begin production next year in the city of Turin. Maserati also confirmed plans to make a new super sports car in Modena, the brand's northern Italy headquarters, and a utility vehicle in Cassino, south of Rome. The sports car will be unveiled in the first six months of next year, a spokesperson said.

Maserati said it is "reinforcing the importance of Italy" as its center of production. Investments of 800 million euros are earmarked for Cassino, where a new production line is set to open next year, and in Turin, where updated versions of the GrandTurismo and GranCabrio also will be produced.

In all, 10 production launches are planned between 2020 and 2023.

During a business plan announcement in June 2018, Maserati said it wanted to double sales to 100,000 units by 2022. No update has been given but deliveries slipped to 35,000 units in 2018, which Fiat Chrysler said was due to lower sales in China and other key markets.


Cars taken from Equatorial Guinea leader's son sold for $27M

Geneva (AP) — Car lovers from around the world splashed out more than $27 million at an auction for dozens of luxury cars seized from the son of Equatorial Guinea's president in a Swiss money-laundering probe.

The 25 lots sold by auction house Bonhams included a white-and-cream 2014 Lamborghini roadster that cost the buyer 8.28 million Swiss francs ($8.4 million), comprising a 15 percent premium for the auction house but with potential taxes still to be added.

The supercar — one of only nine such versions produced — had been driven only 325 kilometers and has an official top speed of 359 kilometers per hour (223 mph), Bonhams said.

Total proceeds from the sale beat the 18.5 million francs ($18.7 million) that authorities had hoped to fetch for a charity to benefit the people of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.

The auction comes after the Geneva prosecutor's office announced in February it had closed a case against Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of the country's four-decade president, Teodoro Obiang, and two others following a probe of money laundering and mismanagement of public assets.

Swiss authorities seized the cars and ordered the sequestration of a yacht in 2016.

The yacht was released in the arrangement announced in February, under which Equatorial Guinea agreed to pay Geneva authorities 1.3 million Swiss francs "notably to cover procedural costs," the prosecutor's office said.

Other cars sold at the Domaine de Bonmmont golf club on the edge of Geneva included a yellow 2003 Ferrari Enzo for 3.1 million francs, and a 2015 Koenigsegg One:1 that fetched 4.6 million francs.

An armored 1998 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur limousine described as being "perfect for someone with enemies" but requiring extensive work sold for 86,250 francs.

The Equatorial Guinea president's son, who is also a vice president, has been ensnared in legal trouble elsewhere. Last year, Brazilian officials said $16 million in undeclared cash and luxury watches that were seized from a delegation he led may have been part of an effort to launder money embezzled from the country's government. And a Paris court in 2017 convicted the son of embezzling millions of dollars in public money, although the case has been appealed.

The Geneva prosecutor's office in February cited rules allowing prosecutors to close cases in which the person under investigation had "repaired the damage or done everything that could have been expected of him or her to make up for the wrong that was caused."

The investigation involved authorities in the United States, the Cayman Islands, France, Monaco, Denmark, the Netherlands and the Marshall Islands.


New Corvette is mid-engined

The Europeans have been building mid-engined sports cars for decades. For a Ferrari to be front engined is news. For a Corvette to be mid-engined is bigger news and this year Chevrolet did just that. The new mid-engined C8 Corvette is news, released mid-year.

Revealed as a 2020 model year car arriving with a complete redesign and rethink of the way Corvettes have been built in the past. A naturally-aspirated 6.2 liter V8 sits in the middle of the car generating 495 horsepower and 470 ft/lb of torque, which is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. There is no longer a manual option. Even though this sounds contrary to what a Corvette should be, all top end performance cars are featuring dual-clutch transmissions these days.

With the Z51 optional performance package, 0-60 mph is less than 3.0 seconds. The Z51 pack also adds larger brake rotors, a performance-oriented suspension system, an upgraded cooling system and performance exhaust.

official pricing to be announced closer to launch at the end of the year.

Chevrolet says the new 2020 Corvette will start from less than USD 60,000, with official pricing to be announced closer to launch at the end of the year. This price range is significantly lower than other performance super-cars.

How to lose money on a classic car

Blower Bentley.

The following article is true. Not fake news.

Now is not the time to buy a Blower Bentley. They (used to be) worth millions, but are now worth about half of that. All this is being done by the Bentley Factory itself.

Intrigued? Around 1929 Bentley had five supercharged four and a half liter Bentley race cars. Ettore Bugatti called them “the fastest lorries in the world.” And they were fast, winning the Le Mans 24 hour race five times.

Those cars are now worth millions.

However, there has been a move to re-create classic vehicles, complete with running on of VIN numbers for “authenticity”. Bentley has fallen into that trap and has announced it is building a dozen 1929 four and a half blowers which will take two years. 

So here you are. You can buy a “real” one for say 10 million dollars or buy a new “real” one for whatever the market will stand. And you can be sure it will be less than 10 million.

In 1929 the legendary Blower Bentley crossed the line 10 minutes ahead of the competition in the Le Mans race, beginning a period of success that created the Bentley Boy legend for both car and driver.

Bentley won in 1924 and every year from 1927 to 1930 with one of the most eclectic, dashing group of drivers ever seen, revered to this day as the epitome of 1920s excess and sophistication.

The recreation requires the one 1929 car which had been held by Bentley to be stripped down completely and 12 replica parts made from the original part. Following that, they will then assemble the 12 “new” cars, giving each one a new follow on VIN (vehicle information number) to justify the whole exercise.

Since the 1929 Blower Bentley was built 90 years ago, there will be no old workers waiting in the old folks homes to build these new ones.

Jaguar is doing this exercise with D Type Jags. Looks the same, and as the Thai T-Shirt says, “Same Same But Different.”


The end of the world is nigh?

Beijing (AP) — Chinese auto sales sank 7.7 percent in August from a year earlier extending a painful slump in the industry's biggest global market, an industry group reported Wednesday.

Sales of sedans, SUVs and minivans declined to 1.6 million, according to the Chinese Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, shrank 6.9 percent to 1.9 million.

Chinese consumer demand has been hurt by unease about an economic slowdown and a trade war with Washington.

The industry has recorded monthly sales declines since June 2018, squeezing automakers that are spending heavily to meet government targets to develop electric cars.

Sales of electric and hybrid vehicles fell 15.8 percent from a year ago to 85,000.

The market segment has struggled as the government phases out subsidies that helped to make China the biggest market for electrics. Beijing is using sales quotas to shift the financial burden of promoting electrics to automakers. That raises the cost to buyers.

Sales by Chinese brands fell 10.2 percent in August from a year earlier to 614,000. They lost 1.1 percentage points of market share to 37.2 percent.

Auto sales for the eight months through August were off 12.3 percent from a year earlier at 13.3 million.

Minivan sales declined 22.9 percent through August. SUV sales were off 10 percent and sedans down 12.6 percent.


The Latest: BMW gives glimpse of future offerings

Frankfurt, Germany (AP) — At the Frankfurt auto show, BMW's marketing chief says giving customers a broad choice among internal combustion, hybrid and battery-powered cars is the right approach to a changing market.

Pieter Nota says the Munich-based luxury automaker delivers "power of choice" to consumers by offering "the drive train that they want and need." The company will add a battery-only version of its X3 SUV next year to round out conventional and hybrid versions of the vehicle. BMW is even showing off a concept car powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

BMW is relying on the mix of vehicles to comply with tighter C02 emissions requirements in Europe while competitor Volkswagen is making a big push into battery-only cars with its ID.3 coming to market next year despite currently low uptake by consumers of battery-powered cars.


Daimler's Mercedes-Benz is showing off a long, sleek battery-powered concept vehicle that could join the luxury carmaker's model lineup alongside its S-Class flagship sedans.

The Vision EQS is the latest version of the company's EQ series of battery vehicles, which are a key theme at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

 Vision EQS.

CEO Ola Kallenius said, "What we showed today is the first large-platform sedan, fully electric on a dedicated platform, so we think we can capture even more customers through having a wider offer."

The concept, with a black LED display instead of a grille, slightly bulging wheel wells and a long, sweeping illuminated line running along the vehicle, is "a hint" of what the production car might eventually look like.

The company says the four-seater car has two electric motors that accelerate it to 100 kph (62 mph) in 4.5 seconds and an exceptional battery range of 700 kilometers (435 miles.) Kallenius declined to specify how the company achieved range beyond what other electrics currently offer.

Ford Motor Co. says that more than half of its European sales will be electric-powered by 2022 as it unveils a premium model of its Puma crossover that uses recovered braking energy to boost acceleration.

Ford showed off the Puma Titanium X on Tuesday at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The vehicle is a so-called mild hybrid, meaning it can store energy from braking and coasting in a 48-volt lithium-ion battery and send that power to the wheels to assist the gasoline engine when needed.

Ford, which got a late start in developing electric vehicles, last year sold 974,856 passenger vehicles overall in Europe.

It says it will have a battery-only SUV based on the Mustang in 2020. In the meantime it is offering plug-in hybrids that combine battery power with internal combustion engines to lower emissions and increase mileage. Like all automakers, Ford is facing stricter European Union limits on average emissions of carbon dioxide starting in 2021 and must find a lower emission vehicle mix to avoid fines.

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess says his company's massive scale will enable it to make profits on large numbers of affordable electric cars it aims to sell in the next several years.

Electric competitor Tesla has not yet turned a profit while analysts say fellow German automaker BMW has lost money on its i3 electric.

Diess told The Associated Press on Tuesday, "Our approach is different. We come with high volumes, we come with a dedicated platform that is only for electric cars, and we generate a lot of scale because we are investing at the same time in China, in Europe, and in the US."

Volkswagen is showing off the ID.3 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, a battery-powered compact with a base price under 30,000 euros ($33,000). Volkswagen aims to have 40 percent of its sales as electrics by 2030 even though such cars are currently less than 2 percent of the market in Europe.

The headwinds buffeting the auto industry are making themselves felt at the Frankfurt Motor Show, with companies confronting a slowdown in sales due to global trade uncertainty and pressure from governments to lower emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases.

Signs of the times at this year's show include a slew of new, market-ready electric cars led by Volkswagen's ID.3 compact that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There will also be protests from cyclists, environmentalists and industry critics who want a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly transportation policy, and efforts by the auto executives to engage those critics in discussion.


Singapore street circuit brings on another bore-fest

For some reason known only to itself, the FIA has decided that the motor racing spectator wants high speed processions. And it certainly is providing that with street circuits where there is precious little chance of overtaking. The average punter is supposedly enthralled by “strategy” producing a “passing” opportunity in the pits rather than on the track. The fact that a pit stop now can be carried out under three seconds is of mild interest only, not edge of the seat stuff such as when Daniel Ricciardo goes round the outside of another car on a high speed sweeper.

The Singapore GP was just another bore-fest with the driver being unimportant and just a part of the “strategy”. Even the drivers admit to the boring nature of the racing on the streets. Max Verstappen admitting, “I wouldn't say that today was that exciting from a racing perspective but Singapore has a lot of plus points being a street circuit, really tough on the body and just being a cool track to drive on.” Of course, the FIA tried to buoy up this circuit by holding the race at night, but it was illuminated with lighting that could show us the far side of the moon, removing the novelty of night racing.

Verstappen’s team mate, Alex Albon said, “Most of that race was just managing my tyres so it was physically easier than I expected. It was only in the last 20 laps when I was really pushing it that I could feel the strain. So, I would call it a battle of management as I started P6 and finished P6. At times it felt more like a procession than a race for me.”

Pole sitter and race leader initially, was Charles Leclerc, who looked as if he was doing it easily. However, the Ferrari pit wall changed all that with strategy that removed Leclerc’s skill advantage.

Charles Leclerc says he wants Ferrari to explain why their strategy resulted in his team mate Sebastian Vettel taking victory from him in Singapore. Vettel was the first of the two Ferrari drivers to pit which gave him the advantage of being first to run on fresher tyres. That meant when Leclerc pitted he came out behind his team mate.

Teams ordinarily give their leading driver the preference on strategy. Leclerc says he wants to know why this wasn’t the case in Singapore. “I still need some explanations just to understand fully why this decision was taken,” he said.

The final results were

                Driver    Team     Laps       Gap

1              Vettel   Ferrari   61           1h 58:33.667

2              Leclerc  Ferrari   61           + 0:02.641

3              Verstappen        Red Bull                61           + 0:03.821

4              Hamilton              Mercedes           61           + 0:04.608

5              Bottas   Mercedes           61           + 0:06.119

6              Albon    Red Bull                61           + 0:11.663

7              Norris    McLaren              61           + 0:14.769

8              Gasly     Toro Rosso          61           + 0:15.547

9              Hulkenberg        Renault                61           + 0:16.718

10           Giovinazzi            Alfa Romeo        61           + 0:17.855

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).

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