by Dr. Iain Corness

Bikes in Bangkok

The Bangkok International Motor show 2007 also has a separate section for motorcycles. Knowing that a fair number of car enthusiasts have a more than passing interest in motorcycles, and another fair number of motorcycle enthusiasts read this column, I asked my motorcycle mate Alan Coates to cover the bikes. Here is his report.
In general, the major Japanese and German manufactures presented a very different line-up of motorcycles from last year. Gone were the mega muscle bikes and monster engined cruisers of last year and also missing entirely was a presentation from the local Tiger concern.

Suzuki Concept

Concept Motorcycle. For my money, star of the show was the mouth watering concept machine shown centre stage by Suzuki. This had a six cylinder engine across the frame, a very neat six into one exhaust system with a tiny silencer. Styled in a manner reminiscent of the Suzuki Katana’s of the 80’s this version had ABS among the more obvious features. Capacity, at least 1,000 cc, but likely to be 1300 cc to replace the aging Hyabusa in the Suzuki range.
GSX-R1000 - Sport. Suzuki’s most popular sports bike. Suzuki has never made a bad GSX-R1000, their flagship superbike, and they still haven’t. The GSX-R’s advanced fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, 16-valve four-cylinder engine provides class leading power, up 7 bhp to 185 bhp and it’s reported to now be even easier to handle than ever. Three engine power settings are available at the flick of a switch for any road conditions. Twin pipes mean greater balance and lower centre of gravity, whilst adjustable pegs create a better riding position. To help the chassis control the massive amount of power on tap, the GSX-R1000 features an integral steering damper as standard. There are the usual popular accessories available as optional extras.
FZ1 Fazer 1000 cc - All Rounder. The engine powering the Fazer is from their R1, which is 1000cc liquid cooled 4-cylinder. Yamaha market this machine as an all rounder, capable of going to work – and back journeys as well as distance touring. With a power output of 110 kW at 11,000 rpm the Fazer is certainly powerful enough to also be termed a performance sports bike. Maximum torque is delivered at 8,000 rpm suggesting that this motor needs to be revved hard for best performance. Yamaha’s website indicates a mini-fairing / screen is available as an optional extra, a very necessary option for any kind of high speed touring. Other optional extras are plentiful and include ABS.

Yamaha Fazer

FJR 1300 Tourer. Yamaha’s flagship tourer for some time now and is relatively unchanged for 2007. The same engine configuration (liquid cooled, 4 cylinder) is in line with Yamahas practice. Features that are appropriate for a big capacity, long distance tourer include an adjustable screen, ABS brakes, heated handlebars (well, not in Thailand) and generous panniers. A large capacity top box is an optional extra. The big motor does not need the same number of gears and a five speed box is fitted. Shaft drive is a definite plus and the tank has a useful 25 litre capacity.
YZF-R1 Sports. Yamaha market the R1 with “State Of The Art Race Technology”. The latest R1 is packed with technology inspired by the YZR-M1 MotoGP bike plus the all-new YCC-I system (Yamaha Chip Controlled - Intake) air funnels for more performance across the rev range. It also has Yamaha Chip Controlled – Throttle, utilizing state-of-the-art electronics. Also new for 2007 is a new 16-valve engine, a brand-new Deltabox frame and new bodywork. All of this means that the R1 is turned out with many race bred enhancements, a power output of 180 bhp, 6-pot callipers up front to control retardation and a slipper clutch to avoid locking up the rear end under quick downshifts and hard braking.
Vulcan 900 Custom. The largest custom cruiser at the show this year. Kawasaki has taken the tried and tested VN900 Classic and made a full-on custom bike for those who desire the chopper-inspired stripped-down look. Significant changes include a retro-style muffler that meets 21st century regulations while looking good with lots of chrome. Also changed to enhance the “chopper” image is the 21 inch front wheel. Technical specifications remain unchanged and the 903 cc V-twin 4-stroke engine churns out 40kW at 6,000 rpm.

Kawasaki Vulcan 900

Ninja ZX-6R. An all-new engine; an all-new chassis; race-driven parts. These are some of the key features of the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R. This machine is designed and engineered in an attempt to produce the best ever supersports Ninja for the 600cc class. The focus is for an all-new 599cc model built to dominate the race track. Apparently, the Ninja ZX-6R’s all-new ultra-high-rpm engine with polished intake ports churns out more mid-range torque than its predecessors. The result is a nice fat power band with a linear power curve, for hard-hitting acceleration across the rev range. They claim that no other machine revs higher than the new Ninja ZX-6R. Chassis development has focused on a compact, lightweight package to give high corner speeds and controllability. To this end radial mounted brakes are fitted as is a slipper clutch. Front and rear suspension settings are fully adjustable.
(Thank you Alan, for that very detailed report. The second half of Bikes in Bangkok will be published next week. Dr. Iain)

BMW introduces energy saving technology
The new BMW 1 Series is the most fuel efficient production vehicle BMW has ever produced. This has been achieved through technologies such as Brake Energy Regeneration, Automatic Start-Stop function and Electric Power Steering combined with lower rolling resistant tyres and a gearshift change indicator to encourage economical motoring.

BMW 1 Series

The BMW 118d (“d” stands for diesel) records 60.1 mpg figure courtesy of these features in conjunction with the use of further lightweight engineering. The car now even has an aluminium crankcase to save weight.
Brake Energy Regeneration (iGR) makes its debut on the 1 Series. This system uses an Intelligent Alternator Control (IAC) and an Absorbent Glass Mat battery to recycle previously lost energy, in turn saving fuel. This is achieved as the IAC reduces drag on the engine by only engaging when required to charge the battery, where a traditional alternator is always pulling power from the engine. Additionally, the energy generated by the engine on over-run (under braking or descending a hill) is utilized by the IAC to charge the battery. iGR alone is responsible for a three percent improvement in fuel economy.
The Automatic Start-Stop function also cuts fuel consumption. The system automatically switches the engine off when the vehicle is stationary and the driver puts the car into neutral. To restart the driver only need engage the clutch again before pulling away in the normal manner. If this sounds like a hassle, BMW supply a switch so you can turn it off!
Electric Power Steering results in a 90 percent energy saving compared to a conventional mechanical hydraulic steering system. Power assistance is now provided by an electric motor that works only when required, such as turning a corner.
Unfortunately, all these fuel saving (and running-cost saving) technologies cost more money at the point of purchase. There’s still no free lunch!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked how much the Jaguar XJ 3.4 could be purchased ex-works for in 1978? To the nearest thousand pounds would have been fine! It was 8,174 pounds.
So to this week. Hill climbing is a very specialized sport, in which one cannot make any mistakes, as you are racing against the clock, rather than other competitors. The first driver to be killed in practice for a hill climb was in 1900. The first driver to be killed during a hill climb was in 1903, and both were at the same venue. What was this course? Clue: Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs!
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!

Next GP in two weeks

It seems a long time since the Bahrain GP, but for most of the teams, they need this extra development time. Teams such as Honda Racing look like they are going to need two years, not two weeks to try and produce a competitive car. 2007 is yet another year’s F1 championship that will elude Jenson Button, I’m afraid.
Being the Spanish GP, there will be extra pressure on current world champion Fernando Alonso to perform, even more than Ron Dennis will have been applying. In front of his own countrymen, Alonso has much to lose, and not just to Ferrari, but to his tyro team mate Lewis Hamilton.
When will Hamilton win his first GP? I will predict it will be Monaco! He is not fazed by circuits. He is fast and accurate and not prone to lapses of concentration. But no, I’m not putting money on it. I’ve been involved in motor racing too long to fall for that one.
Red Bull will have spent the past two weeks trying how to keep the fuel filler flap closed. This item has come open three times in three GPs, and Mr Webber is getting a trifle testy about it. Unfortunately these vehicles are so susceptible to aerodynamic factors, that when the filler flap opens it destroys the air flow over the rear wing, and the increased ‘drag’ factor knocks the top speed down. Amazing!
Ferrari will also have been doing their homework, with much of it at their own private test track. They will not be coming to Spain with experimental parts, hoping that they will work. This is one of the reasons why Ferrari have incredibly good reliability. They have tested every part of the car and know its ‘life’. They did admit they have several new items to try, and they will all have been tried and tested before arriving at the Circuit of Catalunya in Spain.
As usual, I will be watching with the other F1 enthusiasts, at Jameson’s Irish Pub, Soi AR, next to Nova Park. The main race starts at 7 p.m. our time, come along and join me for dinner and a drink and then watch the GP. We watch the South African feed, which means we get Messrs Allen and Brundle as commentators, rather than the inane telly-bletherers on UBC channels.