What did we learn from the Chinese Grand Prix?
Well, we learned that Nico Rosberg in winning his first
race does have it in him, can withstand the pressures, physical and mental
and drive to give Mercedes-Benz their first win for decades.
Congratulations are due.
We also found that the race was
somewhat like the old Snakes and Ladders game, go so far up the ladder and
then be swallowed by a snake and go backwards. Since this factor in the
racing was caused by tyres which last less than 10 laps, I call this “Rubber
Roulette”. This resulted in some teams opting for a two stop strategy and
others a three stopper.
Back to Mercedes and their hopes of a
1-2 which were shattered when one wheel on Michael Schumacher’s car was not
correctly tightened on the hub. Probably has been shot at dawn on the
Monday. However, the pressures that the pit crews are under are enormous.
Change all four wheels under five seconds, and see of you don’t sweat a
little. Team principal Ross Brawn said, “It’s just a tragedy that we had
the problem with Michael because he would have been in great shape too. We
have started a new adventure, I have been lucky to have a lot of special
days and this is certainly a special one.”
McLaren had a win almost in their
grasp, with Jenson Button, Mr. Smooth, gliding his way to the front, only to
have a wheel problem in the pits delay him by several seconds, enough to
allow Rosberg to run away and leave Button with second only. Hamilton in
the other McLaren drove a heady race and was involved in much wheel to wheel
action, all very clean, and his third place was well deserved.
In fourth was Mark Webber (Red Bull)
after sneaking past team mate Sebastian Vettel in the last few laps. Webber
did his usual atrocious start (can’t someone take him out to a vacant
parking lot and let him practice a lot) and then tried to get his pilot’s
license renewed with an enormous ‘wheelie’ after sliding off on one corner.
He described the GP as, “It was an interesting race, enjoyed most of it. It
was different strategies playing against each other - utter chaos.” And it
was chaos from the spectator point of view - one minute your favorite driver
was third and the next he was 13th.
Vettel did not have the happiest of
races finally coming home fifth, and he has found that it is more difficult
when you are not driving the dominant car, such as Red Bull was last year.
Grosjean in the “Lotus” survived a
complete Grand Prix and finished sixth, after team mate Raikkonen’s tyres
just gave up working and he slipped from fourth to 14th over the
Seventh was Bruno Senna in the
Williams, just beating his team mate Maldonado and the top 10 was rounded
out by Alonso (Ferrari) and Kobayashi in the Sauber. And Alonso’s Ferrari
stablemate Massa? Thirteenth, I am afraid and once more out of the points.
I do not believe Ferrari will put up with this all year, and a DCM is on the
cards (Don’t Come Monday).
Plenty of close running all the way
down through the ranks, though the DRS did not seem to have the effect is
Bahrain GP this weekend, let us hope
the threatened violence does not eventuate.
Carroll Shelby does it again
Wheel-standing Shelby 1000.
The same iconic chap who shoe-horned V8’s into AC sports
cars to produce the wonderful Cobra series and the Shelby Mustang of the
late 60’s, has now done it all again, with 1000 horsepower V8’s in the new
At the New York International Auto
Show, 50 years after the company made its debut, Shelby American, Inc., a
division of Carroll Shelby International, unveiled the world's most powerful
series of muscle cars. Named the Shelby 1000, the street-legal car is the
high performance dream of founder Carroll Shelby. The Shelby American team
enhanced the power, braking and handling of the 2012 Ford Shelby GT500 to
create a hyper-performance muscle car available in both street and
“We launched Shelby American with the
Cobra at the 1962 New York Auto Show,” said Carroll Shelby. “The 289 Cobra
was considered pretty radical at the time. For our return 50 years later, I
wanted something just as incredible that will show how far we've come and
where we're headed for the next 50 years.”
Having just achieved 800 horsepower
with the famed Shelby GT500 Super Snake, he believed that they could enhance
Ford's well-engineered car even more.
Shelby himself was actively involved in
every aspect of the Shelby 1000's development, from the design to the
testing and ultimately his final approval.
The Shelby1000 will be offered in both
street and Shelby 1000 S/C “off-road” track versions. The street legal, pump
gas version dyno's out at approximately 950 BHP, while the track oriented
version is rated at over 1,100 BHP.
Shelby's enhancements didn't stop at
the engine. “This car is the total package,” noted Gary Patterson, vice
president of operations. “It was conceived as the ultimate Shelby and honed
during substantial testing. It’s the most powerful Shelby based on a Ford
Mustang that has ever been built at Shelby American.”
The brakes include 6 pistons in front
and 4 pistons out back. The driveshaft is a stronger unit while the
suspension includes new struts, sway bars and bushings. The hood, rear
panel and splitter are functional pieces for performance.
The result is a Shelby with subtle, yet
substantial changes. From the interior touches to the hood, wheels and
aerodynamic styling, the car is stripped to its bare essence. In keeping
with its 50th anniversary theme, a limited production of 100 Shelby 1000s
will be built. Each will be numbered and documented for the Shelby
Shelby American is now accepting orders
for the limited edition Shelby 1000. Those interested in reserving a car
should contact the Shelby American Sales team at
And the price - and this is in the USA,
the Shelby 1000 starts at $149,995 and the track S/C version starts at
$154,995, but that is not including the base GT500. A completed Shelby 1000
is then expected to be approximately $200,000 (six million THB), but that is
in the US. I would hazard a guess at 18 million THB landed here in LHD
The wash-up after the Bangkok International Motor Show
The 2012 motor show will be heralded as the ‘best ever’
with 1.9 million people attending and 57,058 orders for new cars taken at
the show. That is actually quite astounding when you think about it.
Of course with the floods of 2011,
sales of new vehicles were down for the last three months of the year, and
this will have spurred on sales for the first quarter of 2012. Figures are
now available from the exhibitors, and the top sales day (8,537 units) was
the final day of the show, April 8, with people realizing this was their
last chance to pick up some of the bargain extras being offered for show
Easily top seller was Toyota with
12,694 orders, almost double the next best which was Honda at 7,539.
Third place went to Mitsubishi at 6,406
units, and I am sure many of those were the new Mirage eco-car, whilst
Nissan was pushed down to fourth at 5,479 orders.
Isuzu sold very well in fifth at 5,007,
well clear of Mazda at 4,117 and Chevrolet at 4,045 and Ford at 4,008.
Isuzu, with only pick-ups and their SUV is a surprisingly good result over
Chevrolet and Ford with their complete ranges of cars. Suzuki with 3,140
orders shows that eco-cars suit the current budgets
Large drop to BMW (1,439) in 10th
place and Mercedes-Benz (1,271), closely followed by Hyundai at 945. This
does not surprise me at all as the Hyundai people are doing well all over
After Hyundai, the sales figures for
the rest of the manufacturers just fell away, with next best being VW at
181, outselling Volvo (173) and then a big drop to Lexus (118), Peugeot
(109), MINI (105) and then SSanyong at 100.
Amongst the surprises was the fact that
Mitsuoka (16) outsold Jaguar (12).
Others who did well (relatively)
looking at their prices were Porsche (10), Lotus (5) and Lamborghini (4).
Finally, Bentley did sell one example, but Rolls-Royce went home with the
four cars they brought.
The main message from the figures was
that whilst Toyota is still top dog, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Hyundai were the
The Motor Show in Bangkok showed just what incredible
bargains there are in the automotive sector at present. The government’s
pushing of the ‘eco-car’ category has made it such that some very
inexpensive new cars can be bought for around 400,000 THB, and if this is
your first car, you can knock another 100,000 THB off the sticker price as
well with the government’s rebate program.
Newcomers to the category are the Mitsubishi Mirage and the Suzuki Swift
which will compete against each other as well as against the Nissan March
and the Honda Brio (now that Honda has resumed production after the factory
Suzuki executives said they initially expected about 2,000 orders at the
show, but after the Swift was launched, more than 4,000 orders have already
been placed, and motor show sales were higher than expected.
Suzuki Swift eco-car.
The Mitsubishi Mirage is built on the Mitsubishi Global
Small platform and features a high tensile steel body that is lighter and
more rigid than regular steel. The engine is a four valves three cylinder
unit with the 1.2 liter engine developing 78 bhp. It comes with a CVT
(Continuously Variable Transmission) and has Mitsubishi is claiming a fuel
economy of 22 kilometers per liter.
With all the other offerings in this category, Mitsubishi offered free
insurance and a cash rebate of 10,000 THB for the first 9,000 Mirage
customers. The Mirage range runs from 388,000 to 546,000 THB.
The Suzuki Swift eco-car variant appears to have caught the imagination of
the public. Now built in Thailand to comply with the eco-car requirements,
it is a down market version of the imported 1.5 liter Swift. This new
version has a 1.2 liter, 4 cylinder 12 valve engine with a claimed output of
91 bhp. The Swift also comes with a CVT and is priced from 469,000 to
Praphat Choeychom, senior vice president at Nissan Motor (Thailand), said
the small-car segment was very competitive; however, Nissan’s March has had
a great year. “Nissan was the first company to introduce the eco-car and we
were highly successful. This year we also have a special model in the lineup
and expect the same level of success,” he said.
Honda had six months to forget with the flooding of the Ayutthaya factory,
but now up and running, the stylish little Honda Brio could garner a good
foothold in the eco-car category.
Nitto 3K Retro series begins
May 5 and 6 at Bira
The Retro Series for 2012 looks to be even more
competitive as drivers can see that the Retro Series represents the most fun
for the money, and remains one of the most affordable classes in racing.
Basically the cars have to be manufactured before 1985, and the classes are
then divided on engine types (naturally aspirated or Turbo/supercharged).
The older styles of car feature less complicated engineering, making it
possible for ‘home mechanics’ to prepare and maintain their racing cars.
Most of the cars also comply with road registration, so expensive trailers
are not the norm, as most drivers simply drive to the circuit.
There are many makes involved in the series, right from Porsche 944s,
through to BMW E30’s, hordes of Toyota Corolla DX and many other Toyota
types, a couple of Mk1 Ford Escorts and more.
Our Securitas Retro Escort Team which came third last year in the
championships has had an upgraded engine for the 2012 season and is now
being made race-ready. It was taken to the B-Quik workshop to have the wheel
alignment set on racing specifications, and they certainly were “quick”.
Thank you K. Mai and your technicians.
F-Type breaks cover - officially
A few months ago I published some news of the Jaguar
concept car, the C-X16, and expressed the opinion that I hoped it might make
production. Now the news is out that Jaguar will be building this car, and
is to be called the F-Type.
This makes a very logical progression with post-war Jaguar sports cars
beginning with the C-Type, then the D-Type followed by the wildly popular
E-Type. This new car, which is to be released in 2013, also has styling
similarities which makes it a worthy successor to the E.
Adrian Hallmark, Global Brand Director of Jaguar confirmed at the New York
Auto Show that the F-Type will be in production, and yes, based on the
The F-Type will join Jaguar’s existing range - the XF sedan and Sportbrake,
XJ sedan and XK coupe/convertible.
Full specifications are not confirmed, but it is claimed that the new car
will have a top speed approaching 300 km/h and have a zero to 100 km/h under
five seconds, making it a definite supercar.
Jaguar released their own camouflaged spy photos with the “F” design, though
it does look rather like the Fendi handbag livery!
Car Engineering and physical laws
I was always taught that physics was an exact science.
What goes up must come down, for every action there is an equal and opposite
reaction, similar magnetic poles repel, pressure is equally distributed in a
closed vessel, the speed of light is absolute, e=mc2 and all that kind of
stuff. Well, it’s not. If you ever want to disprove physics as a science,
then buy a car. They do not obey physical laws.
I have always considered car electrics to be a black art. Take the battery,
for example, and I am sure you have all experienced the following. You have
a perfectly good battery which is just over 12 months old. In your mind
that’s almost brand new. In fact, you can even remember how much you paid
for it, so it must be very new. And then one morning it won’t turn the
engine over. It worked perfectly yesterday, and now it won’t, or doesn’t
You push start the car and run it for half an hour, as you suppose you must
have left the headlights on, or something equally as explicable. Turn it
off, and hey presto! It’s as dead as a dodo.
If you are really into masochism, you then borrow your mate’s battery
charger and leave it on all night. Triumphantly you remove the cables and
jump in. It doesn’t work. Perfectly good one day, completely cactus the
next. Explain that one, Mr. Einstein.
I haven’t finished with electrics yet. There’s the great little device
called “the coil”. This electrical marvel delivers high voltage to the spark
plugs and does a sterling job until one day, it just doesn’t deliver. No
warning. It just stops working and is then quite useless forever. You cannot
resurrect it, coax it back into life or anything. Its only use is as a
missile to throw at soi dogs.
Another bit of engineering that defies physical laws lies in the universal
joints in the propeller shaft. A kind of metal X with case-hardened caps
filled with rollers. Despite all the greasing in the world, these things
would always seize up, and you had to pull it all apart.
The Owners Manual made it look easy. (Those were the days when the
manufacturer actually allowed you to touch the car. These days your warranty
would become null and void and you would probably be subjected to some kind
of exquisite electro-torture. Tomorrow you will be shot if you open the
bonnet.) But back to the manual, plus pix of some chap in a dust coat. “Tap
the yoke lightly and the bearing will appear” was what the good book said.
Not one solitary word as what to do when the bearings didn’t appear - and
they never did.
No, the tapping physical law does not exist. You have to get the biggest
cold chisel you can and split the casing, and by the time you have
thoroughly butchered it, then the bearing will appear - in bits. “Tap the
yoke lightly” indeed! Physics be damned!
Some thoughts from the Motor Show
I began writing this part of the Automania column whilst
in the Novotel in the Impact Arena where the Bangkok International Motor
Show is held these days. This is the only one of the many “motor shows” that
I do not miss each year, being the only internationally certified and
ratified motor show in Thailand.
This year saw many of the luxury marques back in the show. Principal amongst
these was Rolls-Royce who had reserved several acres of space for four of
their premium offerings. Bumped into Thipvibha (Tippy) Guna-Tilaka who was
handling their marketing communications and who happily opened the gate in
the protective fence around the multi-million baht Rolls-Royces (after all,
these are not vehicles for the hoi-polloi, are they). Many years ago, I
remember being told by the owner of a Bentley that parking it in town was
the equivalent of “casting pearls before the swine!” Oh, if only I had that
sort of money, but even saving assiduously I have left my run a little late
to get the necessary 29 million baht together for the drop-head coupe…
M’Lord’s Rolls awaits.
There were Lamborghini everywhere, especially in the
display areas with sound systems capable of blowing your ears off, and
earnest young gentlemen polishing said Lambo’s within an inch of their
lives, with the latest wonder polish made from genetically modified North
African dromedary droppings.
At the other end of the scale was the new eco-car from Mitsubishi, called
the Mirage. A compact little unit in much the same genre as the Nissan
March. Nissan has enjoyed 12 months of almost having the eco-car marketplace
to itself, but no more. Like all ‘cheapies’ you get what you pay for (no
disappearing bonnet figurines such as one gets with the R-R in your garage),
but I am sure the little Mirage will get into lots of other garages. And
they come in a rainbow of colors and at B. 380-546 will go out the door like
On the Nissan stand they also had the new Almera, another
fresh offering competing against the Toyota Vios category, but is also in
the eco-car category and will be another Nissan to do well, I am sure.
If there was a color at the motor show this year, it was
white. Every manufacturer featured a white model (except R-R, where they
were all a respectful sombre shade, and Lambo, which seemed to have bought a
job lot of orange paint for their cars).
Of course, while white was the ‘in’ color, there were a few startling
examples in red, notable being an AMG Mercedes-Benz and a Ford Ranger
pick-up, completely ‘in your face’!
In your face red Ranger.
The General, with a fanfare of trumpets, revealed their
new Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV. A Colorado with a rear section and two
occasional seats behind to make it a true seven-seater. However, the
occupants of the extra seats should have short legs and well-padded behinds,
because seats were not, as far as I could see. Whilst GM, I am sure, will
claim there is no overlapping of models, the comparison between the
Trailblazer and the Captiva must be made. To me, the looks of the Captiva
are much more pleasant, and the jump seats look better too. The public will
vote on this at the sales desk. GM also showed a couple of ‘teaser’ models
of the Sonic which was released in Los Angeles earlier this year.
Aveo-sized, it will be an Aveo replacement.
Ford featured the new Territory SUV, complete with corporate grille. This
vehicle is made in Australia, reversing the trend for cars to be built here
and exported to Down-Under. An important vehicle for the Australian motor
industry, and it will be interesting to see how it stacks up here compared
to the Trailblazer/Fortuner/MU7/Pajero Sport SUVs.
One manufacturer to watch is Hyundai, producing an alternative to the Toyota
Camry and very well thought of overseas. The Elantra on show had been voted
the North American Car of the Year, and Hyundai has been doing very well in
the customer satisfaction stakes. You will see many more on the roads this
MINI (BMW like us to use all caps, as opposed to the
original Alec Issigonis ‘Mini’) displayed the new MINI Roadster. People with
weak stomachs should not get too close to this car. Hideous is the only word
for it. And as far as the four door version is concerned, it is neither
small nor cute, and despite its gaudy stickers looks similar to a London
not remove the cover if you have a weak stomach.
I have said this before, but Ssanyong sshould sshoot their sstylist. Many
models on the stand, and reluctantly I will say that the Korando SUV is not
as nauseating as the Actyon. The ‘Bentley’ style grille is pleasant.
Mitsuoka were brave enough to again display their Jaguar 3.4 copy called the
Viewt. But if you think that’s bad, take a look at the Orochi. It even makes
the MINI Roadster look half decent.
Worth it even if it is just to wonder at the Mitsuoka!
More on the show next week.
A small piece from Ron Lister in Chiang Mai
“I must confess to feeling somewhat nostalgic when I saw
the photo of the delightful old Kombi in the most recent edition.
Yes, there's many good Beetles and Kombis here in Chiang Mai; some quite
visible and others hidden away.
'Nostalgic' because a 1957 Kombi was my first vehicle, Australia 1969.
I had been working part time delivering cool drinks to help pay for uni fees
and the vehicle given to me was a Kombi. After driving it for a few months I
got to like it and saw the potential it had to offer.
Not a 'trendy' vehicle for a young man to have in the late 60s (yet it
really was!) and all my friends laughed. But it had an ice chest, table and
bench seats which converted to a bed. I sat in there and typed assignments
1970 I was appointed to a rural school in South Australia and took the
Kombi. It would transport an entire Aussie Rules football team of 20 school
kids from venue to venue.
It ran out of petrol near a farm once and was actually topped up with
kerosene! No worries.
Then in 1971 I was transferred to Central Oz, just south of Uluru, to work
at an Aboriginal community. The loyal Kombi handled those rough and dusty
road beautifully, as long as it was loaded. I actually took it to remote
water-holes so my students could swim. They told me that 'Mr Mac couldn't
take his Series 2 Landrover here'. The clearance and having a wheel at each
corner really helped get it into tight spots. The, for that time, large 15
inch wheels and tough suspension dealt with the merciless corrugations.
That Kombi just went on and on. The only thing I had to be careful with was
the air filter. My model had the engine vents low down, which tended to suck
dust into the engine compartment. Later models had those vents raised.
The big minus was that it was so underpowered with its 1200 cc engine and
high gearing that a head wind would necessitate driving many miles in 3rd. A
side wind would force one to drive with the steering wheel at about 30
degrees off center; somewhat like sailing!
Then in 1974 I was transferred again. A dear Aboriginal Elder loved my
Kombi. I had taken him hunting in it many times. He wanted to buy it.
Because old Charlie had been so kind and helpful to me, both professionally
and spiritually, I weakened and sold it to him.
I later learned that Charlie got it bogged in a dry creek some months later
and burnt out the clutch trying to extricate it. Rather than hunt around
Alice Springs for a spare clutch, then have it fitted by non mechanics, old
Charlie used the Kombi as his home for the next few years. Whenever he had
to relocate because of a death or ceremonies he would have it towed to the
Charlie was not only a Tribal Elder and ceremonial leader, he was also a
Christian and a Church Elder. I visited the community one Sunday and he was
sitting in the Kombi, parked under a gum tree, preparing his sermon.
The dear old fella eventually passed away in that Kombi. Because of that and
the traditional beliefs, the inside of the Kombi had to be burnt to chase
Charlie's spirit away to another location. So the old Kombi is resting in
peace, as is Charlie, out near the Northern Territory, Western Oz and South
Oz border area.”
Thank you Ron Lister for that delightful tale of an old Kombi.