by Dr. Iain Corness
Brazil GP this weekend
Be prepared for a late night this Sunday, as the
Brazilian GP starts at 11 p.m. Thai time.
This is the last Grand Prix in a championship which has
been anything but closely fought, and Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull has
deserved his second World Championship, and the Red Bull team has also
profited from his brilliance with another manufacturer’s championship.
The other initial contenders of Button (McLaren), Alonso
(Ferrari), Hamilton (McLaren) and Webber (Red Bull) have been roundly
beaten, so all they can hope for is to go out on a top note at this Grand
There have been five Brazilians who have won their home
Grand Prix. Yes, five. Fittipaldi, Piquet (Snr), Senna, Pace and Massa.
However, only Carlos Pace is enshrined at the Brazilian circuit, with it
being called the Aut๓dromo Jos้ Carlos Pace in Interlagos, a district in the
city of Sใo Paulo, Brazil.
With Massa (Ferrari) and Barichello (Williams) no longer
being outright contenders for the driver’s world championship, national
Latin sentiment will be transferred to Ferrari’s other driver, which will be
a boost for Alonso.
With the time difference between Thailand and South
America, the live telecast will be seen here at 11 p.m. on the Sunday night.
Nevertheless, I will be taking my place in front of the big screen in
Jameson’s Irish Pub on Soi AR, next to Nova Park. The pub will be staying
open until the GP is over, and does sell food and all sorts of alcoholic
beverages with which we can celebrate, or drown our sorrows. I will be
getting there around 10 p.m., so join me for the action as presented by the
BBC on the super big screen, with no adverts, and good commentary from
Martin Brundle and David Coulthard, both ex-F1 drivers themselves.
FIA goes electric
The FIA, that top-heavy guardian of F1 is reported as
planning a high profile electric racing championship series beginning in 2013 to
be called the FIA Formula E Championship. It is not known if the series will be
run at the same venues as F1 but it can be expected to be held at a range of
international venues and will logically serve as the first official championship
for electric vehicles, although The Isle of Man TT has held races for electric
motorcycles, called the TT Zero race category. These bikes are no slouches
either, with the winner lapping the IOM just under 160 km/h.
Hybrid manufacturers such as Toyota, Peugeot, Audi and
Porsche are already mounting efforts to successfully race hybrid cars in
sportscar racing over the next few years.
The fastest electric race car in the world at the moment is
the KleenSpeed EV-XII, and the company has already indicated it will become
involved in the championship.
Other likely ‘works’ entries could come from the
Renault-Nissan Alliance, and Nissan’s luxury brand Infiniti which will almost
certainly produce an EV shortly. The alliance already has more road going EVs in
production than any other manufacturer - the Renault Twizy ZE, Renault Kangoo ZE
range of commercial vehicles, the Renault Fluence ZE and Renault Zoe ZE, plus
Other manufacturers could include Tesla and Toyota, BMW,
Mercedes/smart, BMW/MINI, Honda, Audi, Tata, Ford, General Motors and
The FIA is finalizing the Technical Terms and Conditions that
will form the basis of a new Call for Expressions of Interest which is expected
in the first quarter of 2012. Each manufacturer will be requested to produce a
minimum number of cars in order to guarantee a minimum field, and a “balance of
performance” system would be put in place in order to guarantee the sporting
interest of the Championship.
This Call for Expressions of Interest will be issued to
identify and shortlist (at the latest in April 2012) those manufacturers that
are in a position to commit to take part in the 2013 FIA Formula E Championship,
either directly or/and via teams.
Last week I asked you to look at the photo. What is it? Who
designed it? What year was it? What engine did it have? It was a 1914
Austro-Daimler all-electric brougham with electric hub-motors in the rear
wheels, designed by Dr. Porsche.
So to this week. What performance sports car ceased
production because the new owner did not like the old engine manufacturer?
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email email@example.com.
Godzilla is back and faster than ever
The new Nissan GT-R for 2012 is even more of a rocket ship
than the 2011 model. Try this for acceleration figures: Zero to 100 km/h in 2.8
seconds. The 2011 model was feted for its performance with its 0-100 km/h in 3.0
seconds. What will the international pundits say now?
There are only two “production” cars quicker and they are the
Bugatti Veyron and the Ariel Atom V8 with both capable of returning 0-100 in 2.5
I haven’t got the prices for Thailand, but in Australia, as a
guide, the Nissan GT-R is $170K. Now compare that against the next closest
performance machine, the Porsche 911 Turbo S which will set the Australian
enthusiast back by $423 K. I will hazard a guess that by the time you import,
pay duty, pay Customs, pay, pay, pay you would be looking at 8 million for
Godzilla and 18 million for the Porsche.
However, when you open your garage door, nobody says, “Wow!
You’ve got a Nissan!” But they do say, “Wow! You’ve got a Porsche!” Certainly
the Porsche has more panache, but the Nissan has the numbers!
Chinese auto manufacturer changing its image
“Original” chrome grille.
Peter Horbury, previously the vice-president of design for
Volvo has moved to China with parent company Zhejiang Geely Automobile Holdings,
to lead the styling of the Chinese manufacturer’s rapidly expanding Geely range
and becoming the senior vice-president of design for the Geely Group.
Geely Holding Group and Volvo Car Corporation chairman Li
Shufu said, “I am delighted that Peter Horbury has accepted the offer to lead
the design development of the Geely Group brands into the future.
The move will see him oversee the design of all Geely models
and sub-brands including Gleagle, Emgrand and Englon (Omygawd) as the Chinese
manufacturer embarks on a massive expansion program in its domestic market and
pushes further into overseas markets.
Chinese body design has always left a lot to be desired, but
adoption of some European design cues can do nothing but good for Geely in the
overseas markets. As far as the Chinese market is concerned, all Horbury will
have to do is design bigger chrome grilles.
Mr Horbury joined Volvo as head of design in 1991. A year
later he became responsible for design for all brands in Ford’s Premier
Automotive Group, which included Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin, and
in 2004 moved to Detroit as executive director of design for Ford, in charge of
all North American products.
He was replaced in that role in April 2009 by former Mazda
chief designer Moray Callum (from Dumfries in Scotland) when Ford restructured
its global design team.
Horbury then returned to Volvo as vice-president of design.
In his time at Volvo, between 1979 and 1986, he worked on interiors for models
such as the 480, 440 and 460. Horbury is also credited with shaping a vast array
of Volvo models including the 1995 S40/V40, followed by the S70/V70, S80, S60
and XC70. Others include the original C70 and its folding hard-top successor,
the C30, and the XC90.
Toyota resumes production, but Honda still in trouble
Toyota should have resumed production in Thailand on November
21, one month after the severe flooding forced it to suspend operations.
Toyota has three plants in Thailand with the ones at Samut
Prakan and Chachoengsao provinces unaffected directly by the flooding; however,
production was halted on October 10 due to supply chain disruptions after
flooding hit industrial estates in Thailand’s central provinces.
The company is confident that parts can be supplied but it
has not yet decided whether to resume production at all three plants, which have
total production capacity of 650,000 units per year.
Toyota Motor Thailand Co., Ltd. has 13,500 employees with
registered capital of Bt7.5 billion. As of November 12, the floods had cost
Toyota 150,000 vehicles in lost production, nearly 90,000 of that in Thailand,
and 40,000 in Japan. The floods were affecting supplies of some 100 items,
including resin and electronic parts.
Toyota has already decided to continue the output cut at its
Japan-based plants and to downsize production at plants in other countries
except Thailand. Reassuring to the Thai government is the statements from Toyota
that it does not foresee downsizing the local production, despite the flooding.
Nissan Motor and Mazda Motor have also decided to resume
production of some models in Thailand. Honda, on the other hand has been the
worst hit of all the automakers in Thailand, with two plants submerged for over
Honda’s local problems have had a far reaching effect, with
shortages in the US and closure of their plant in the Philippines. The Thai
factory that makes nearly five percent of Honda vehicles worldwide was still
under 1.5 meters of water after a month.
Honda Motor Co. has been the most affected by the Thai
flooding - a disaster that arrived just as Honda was recovering from the
production downturn caused by the March 11 tsunami in Japan that wiped out parts
suppliers. The situation being similar to the Thailand problem where not only
the assembly plants were under water, but as many as 79 parts manufacturers have
also had to cease production from the inundation.
The disaster is another reminder of how vulnerable car makers
and other manufacturers are to supply disruptions since their global operations
rely on a just-in-time delivery system of sophisticated parts. Car production as
far away as North America has been scaled back as the Thai flood waters put
suppliers out of action. Yet the losses are expected to be noticeably less than
those caused by the tsunami, according to the Japanese arm of the company.