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by Dr. Iain Corness

Japanese GP this weekend

So it’s down to the final Grand Prix of the year, the Japan GP at Suzuka. Number 17 in a packed schedule which saw Michael Schumacher and Ferrari scoop the double pool of individual driving champion and constructor’s championship. And damn well deserved too. Despite all the cat-calls, there was nobody within a country mile of Mrs Schumacher’s big boy in 2001.

The only real interest is whether Barichello can come 2nd to Schumi but that will need a win by Rooby baby and a 5th or worse from Coulthard. Don’t hold your breath.

Next year will be another year and one in which Schumi might see some real competition coming from Juan Pablo Montoya in the BMW Williams and Kimi Raikkonen in the McLaren Mercedes. Why have I left out Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard? Simply, Ralf has been outshone in many ways by the Colombian, and if Montoya’s equipment failures had been less, he would have been much higher in the points table. Coulthard? If I hear “No more Mr. Nice Guy next year” I think I’ll puke. Coulthard may be fast, but a race driver who doesn’t know how to pass will never be world champion in my books. Coulthard’s efforts at Monaco were classic examples of ineptitude. So Montoya will be there and Raikkonen who has been a real eye opener in his rookie year. According to Peter Sauber, Raikkonen’s team boss this year, he is a most focussed 21 year old with a giant ego and ‘need’ to win. There was a certain young German with those characteristics who has won four world titles. Raikkonen has all the determination and fire - and the confidence of youth. We were all ten foot tall and bullet-proof (once)!

Road Test (Opel/Chevrolet) “Holden” Zafira 5-Speed

The locally made Chevrolet Zafira (nee Opel) is sold in Australia badged as the GM brand Holden. I was most interested to see what our Down-under correspondent John Weinthal made of the Zafira, after last week castigating the LandRover. Here are the words from Weinthal.

“Yet another new group of cars is easing onto our market, a little like the soft off-roaders moved in over the past decade or so - the RAVs and CRVs, Foresters, Hyundai’s Santa Fe and so many other not quite full on, off-road four-wheel-drives.

“Some call the newcomers mini people-movers, but Holden sees its Zafira as a flexible wagon offering an interior layout adaptable to shifting lifestyle needs. They are probably right, but it’s hardly a catchy tag line.

“Whatever, this new class has been a big hit in Europe. The two star performers are Renault’s Scenic and the Zafira which wears Opel and Vauxhall name tags in mainland Europe and Britain. In Australia the Scenic and Zafira have only one direct competitor. That’s Daewoo’s excellent Tacuma which gives away little in performance, nothing in creature comforts and costs about AUD 6000 less. I am surprised we haven’t seen more Tacumas on our streets - and if I was Holden I would note that. The Scenic hit Australia a few months back and the four-wheel-drive model I drove appealed in many ways.

“The Holden Zafira we get here is made in Thailand where, just to confuse matters further, it is sold as a Chevrolet. Whatever, the Holden Zafira is a very logical vehicle and appears to be extremely well finished.

“Although notionally the Zafira can carry seven people, most had better be kids. However, with the rear pair of seats folded there is considerable comfort for five with a vast, flat-floor luggage area. The Scenic and Tacuma settle for five seats with a similarly large luggage space.

“Because of its stubby nose, high roof and wagon-shaped back end, the Zafira is short enough to be highly manoeuvrable in traffic and to slot into pretty tight parking spaces.

At least in five-speed manual gear form this 108kW, 2.2litre, twin cam engine lightweight was impressively economical and could be quite a sprinter. It was also a happy highway cruiser with generally low noise levels and power in reserve.

“Holden - like Renault - would have us believe that this car handles just like any car. They are wrong. There are laws of physics and neither the Scenic nor the Zafira defies them. If you ride high, your vehicle will be subject to more body-roll than most cars, and you and your passengers will feel it. In practice this deters you from pretending the Zafira is anything more than its designers intended - a very useful, comfortable five to seven seater which is more than affordable to run.

“The Zafira comes in one specification only. It costs AUD 32,000 (about 1.4 million baht in Oz) plus on road charges as a manual, or AUD 34,000 with four-speed automatic gears. If you must, you can cough up an extra $240 for metallic paint - and that’s it.

“Zafira owners might look as though they are hammering along in a semi-commercial vehicle, but they enjoy more goodies than are found in many cars in their price range. The Zafira has two air bags, anti-lock braking and traction control, power steering, air-conditioning, cruise control, remote central locking, a single-disc CD player (but no tape) and fast up and down power front windows. Middle row passengers get to wind their windows up and down manually.

“Folding the rear seats is pretty simple and they form a flat boot floor. The middle row seat can be moved back and forth by up to 540mm for extra legroom or luggage space - it’s your choice. These seats can also be folded and secured against the front seat backs.

“Zafira boasts a couple of interesting technical features for this price class - in cars with automatic transmission the air-conditioning switches off when extra power is needed in short bursts. The auto also shifts back into neutral when the car is stationary with the brake pedal applied, slipping into drive when the throttle is applied. Zafira also features a ‘drive-by-wire’ electronic throttle control for enhanced driveability.

“This is a nice car with lots of practical applications. It is a logical vehicle too, and that might be its downfall. I wonder if Australians are simply too conservative when it comes to buying a car. Our top-sellers are barely rational for most users, yet they are seen as Aussie icons - I can’t see Zafira winning that tag. It is simply too logical.”

Lord Mayor of London joins the Electric Bike Orchestra

London Lord Mayor Ken Richardson on Thailand’s Ecolux Hurricane

A couple of weeks back I published the “road test” on the Ecolux Hurricane electric bike, and mentioned how rapt I was with the concept and the machine. Seems I am not the only one to be impressed. The City of London last month had a “Car Free Day” and Londoners were encouraged to use non-polluting forms of transport instead of the gas guzzlers. And what did the Lord Mayor of London use? An Ecolux Hurricane, built in Thailand. That’s right. Live-wire CEO of Ecolux in Bangkok, Paul Markham, was on hand to make sure the Lord Mayor was prepared for his first electrobiking experience. Expect to see use of this ecologically safe mode of transport increasing in the future.

The Ultimate M3?

BMW will show a lightweight M3 badged with the CSL nameplate at this month’s Frankfurt show. Built by BMW’s M division as a study of lightweight materials, the car is unfortunately not destined for production.

It weighs 440 pounds less than the standard M3, thanks to carbon fibre roof, doors, boot lid, front air dam and exterior mirror housings. Inside, the leather bucket seats are replaced by dual hardshell racing chairs and the rear seat has been removed. Door trims are polished carbon fibre trims, as are the doors, console, dashboard and steering wheel and the rear window is of thinner glass. Parts of the floorpan and rear bulkhead are made of a honeycomb sandwich material typically used in F1 and aerospace applications.


The 3.2-litre inline six engine has a revised intake and low-friction internal components and pumps out 370 hp output, up 27 hp on the “stock” M3. Expect 0-100 kph in around 4.5 seconds.

Autotrivia quiz

So to last week’s quiz. The question was posed that one of the current manufacturers of kitchen appliances also used to build cars, in fact the production lines ran side by side. They built 125 vehicles in two years, but decided there was more money to be made in filling madame’s kitchen rather than master’s garage. What was the name of these cars? The clue given was that they made three models, a K1 and a K2 and a long wheelbase limousine.

The answer was Miele. Carl Miele and his partner Reinhard Zinkann made the Miele motor cars in 1912/13, but decided there was no future in cars, so dropped the vehicle assembly line. Miele continues today as manufacturers of quality white goods.

So to this week. Remember the Toyota MR2? This is just too easy. What did MR2 stand for?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to fax 427 596 or email [email protected]

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