by Dr. Iain Corness

New car for under B. 100,000

A new car for under B. 100,000 is the promise from Tata industries in India; however, it will not be badged as a Jaguar, the marque that Tata has just bought from FoMoCo, but will apparently just be called a Tata.

Tata Peoples Car

The concept of such a vehicle is a project pushed by the Tata chief Ratan Tata. The super-low price has been made possible by what is being referred to as “Gandhi” engineering. Forget luxuries and frills, but get back to the very basics of automotive transport. Who needs two windscreen wipers, when one is enough? Who needs electric windows, when handles are effective and cheaper? Who needs big powerful engines when the car is designed to only do 70 km/h, so a cheap $700 engine developing 35 HP is satisfactory? Even the wheel bearings are only capable of running up to that 70 kays speed, so are consequently cheaper.
So the principle of Gandhi engineering is to jettison anything that doesn’t actually make the car go forward, stop and shelter occupants. Then with what is left, find ways to make the item even cheaper and lighter than anyone has done before. The steering column, for example, is a hollow tube and not a solid shaft.
The lighter and cheaper concept also dictated a rear engine-rear wheel drive configuration, which is much cheaper to produce than a front engine-front wheel drive layout. This is simply because with rear engine-RWD, you do not need CV joints at the outer ends of the drive shafts to allow for steering angles.
Gearboxes are precise and expensive items, so the Tata ‘Peoples Car’ uses CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), which was the ‘rubber band and pulley’ transmission used by DAF many years ago. Again when you look at the top speed of this vehicle, the CVT will never wear out, and will also keep the engine running in the most optimal rev range and be therefore more economical.
The new super-cheapie went on display in India in January this year and is mooted to be shown at the Geneva motor show in March, and hopefully might even be seen at our Bangkok International Motor Show in April. At the price, you wouldn’t bother insuring it, you just throw it away and get a new one.
Is this the ultimate disposable commuter?

F1 to stop when it rains?
For many years, the Indycar teams have not raced if the track was considered to be wet. I was present at the Indycar race in Australia a few years ago when it rained. We finished our race and then watched in amazement as their safety car with the American Clerk of the Course on board groaned around and around and around until eventually the rain stopped and the track was considered dry enough to race on. We considered them wimps.

F1 demolition derby

Now the overpaid EffWun wallahs have taken up the call. This year they have to do without Traction Control (TC), so they are going to have to be disciplined in opening the throttle in the wet, as electronics are not going to save them clobbering the wall.
F1 drivers are now reportedly in “dialogue” with the FIA as fears mount over the safety of racing in the wet without TC. David Coulthard is leading the gang, telling Autosport, “Fernando Alonso aquaplaned off the road in Fuji (last year) - even with TC. The electronics still couldn’t support him - and that will happen a lot more without traction control because Formula One engines are very peaky.” Coulthard also went on to say, “When you’re flat out at 180 mph you see simply nothing.”

Pre-war Auto Union with twin bicycle tyres!

I’m afraid I don’t have much sympathy for Coulthard’s cause. The concept of motor racing is to drive as fast as you can, taking into consideration the condition of the course, the weather and the vehicle. I take my hat off to the drivers who can master the conditions. They are the best. I do not take my hat off to the drivers who want everything to be made ‘easy’ for them because they cannot master the conditions without an electronic ‘nanny’. If you can’t see, David, then slow down until you can.
Felipe Massa has also jumped into the act saying, “In terms of safety, this is a big step backwards (no TC). For sure, we will have more accidents and racing in wet conditions will be very dangerous. I’ve spoken with Michael Schumacher and several other drivers and they’ve told me it will be more dangerous driving a car without TC now than it was in the past. Another race like Fuji would be very dangerous.”
To Felipe I would say that perhaps he should look at history, when the Mercedes and Auto Union teams were racing before WWII in 600 horsepower monsters getting the power down through something akin to bicycle tyres, without any electronics. And they didn’t stop for rain.
For once I find myself agreeing with FIA head honcho Max Moseley who does not believe that the absence of TC will compromise safety. Mosley believes that speeds will be lower without TC, which means less chance of injury. Which gets us back to racing within the conditions. If it is more slippery, then you drive slower! If you can’t see what you’re doing then you slow down until you can. Do we have to tell the so-called “best drivers in the world” this very obvious fact of racing life?

Autotrivia Quiz
Last week I asked when did pneumatic tyres first get used in a race? And who was the driver? The answer was very interesting historically. Pneumatic tyres were used in the very first official race, which was the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris event of 1895. The driver was Andre Michelin (yes, the forerunner of today’s Michelin tyres) who fitted his tyres on a Peugeot. Unfortunately he suffered numerous punctures and was disqualified for exceeding the 100 hours allotment for the race. However, the following year most cars were on Michelins for the race.
So to this week. What was the first air-cooled racing engine, which had a large fan to force air across the cylinders? Hint: do not jump to the first conclusion!
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!

On Yer Bike
Australians bought 1 million new cars in 2007. Not bad from the population of 21 million. They also bought 1.4 million new bicycles in that time, outselling cars by 40 percent!
However, it is wonderful what you can dream up once you have a few statistics behind you. The Cycling Promotion Fund (CPF), which is urging the Federal Government to invest in cycling infrastructure, say the figures show Australians have greater awareness of climate change and their health. “Australians want to become more active and are looking for practical ways to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions,” said CPF program director Rosemarie Speidel.
Unless Australians have changed enormously since I left its golden sandy beaches, Aussies want something with a big engine to tow the boat to the aforesaid beaches, and with a big boot for the weekend shopping pilgrimage to the supermarket. Australia as a nation also has a problem with rampant obesity which continues unchecked, despite bicycle sales.
No, Aussies buy bicycles because their child wants one, and a few adults think it is a good idea to be seen on one. After the first weekend of saddle sores, it sits in the back of the shed until it is given away to the local orphanage or to the kid next door.
In actual fact, bikes have outsold cars for eight years, so it’s nothing new, but there are not more bikes visible on the road. Cars outnumber bikes by at least 1000 to 1 on the streets. Ideas of getting fit soon diminish, but since farting is an art form Down-under, the greenhouse gas called methane continues to be produced unabated.
Statistics - I love ‘em!

Six Hour race at Bira
On Saturday January 19, there is (or should be) a Six Hour race at the Bira circuit, outside Pattaya, for sedans up to 1.5 liters. However, there may be a second class for up to 2 liter sedans, but at the time of going to press this was still just rumored. The only other details I have received is that all cars must run on BF Goodrich G4 Sport tyres.
Last year it was a Four Hour race for 1.5 liter cars with a minimum of three drivers and a maximum of five drivers per car, and at the time I wrote, “The additional drivers required meant that many young aspiring race drivers were given the opportunity to run in a race prepared car, something that would normally be difficult for them to arrange, if they did not own a race car themselves.” A wonderful idea to bring in new blood, and incidentally bring some old drivers out of retirement.
However, some people neither learn from mistakes, nor it seems from successes. The regulations for the Six Hour state that each car can have three drivers only, consequently the number of drivers required and involved has fallen, and it seems that entries may be down too.
This is a great shame, as endurance racing is popular overseas and I personally knew of some overseas drivers who wanted to run here. Another type of tourist, ready to spend money.

The 2008 F1 official entry list
Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
1. Kimi Raikkonen
2. Felipe Massa
BMW Sauber F1 Team
3. Nick Heidfeld
4. Robert Kubica
ING Renault F1 Team
5. Fernando Alonso
6. Nelson Piquet
AT&T Williams
7. Nico Rosberg
8. Kazuki Nakajima
Red Bull Racing
9. David Coulthard
10. Mark Webber
Panasonic Toyota Racing
11. Jarno Trulli
12. Timo Glock
Scuderia Toro Rosso
14. Sebastien Bourdais
15. Sebastian Vettel
Honda Racing F1 Team
16. Jenson Button
17. Rubens Barrichello
Super Aguri F1 Team
18. Takuma Sato
19. Anthony Davidson
Force India Formula One Team
20. Adrian Sutil
21. Giancarlo Fisichella
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
22. Lewis Hamilton
23. Heikki Kovalainen
The numbers assigned to the drivers (other than the number 1 plate which goes to the previous year’s champion) relate to the position of the team in the manufacturer’s championship in 2007, which explains why McLaren have been given 22 and 23, having been disqualified in 2007 and therefore “last”.
The pit garages are also assigned by the team numbers, hence Ferrari will be at the first pit garage, whilst McLaren will be at the last.