Monday, May 18, 2009

F1: Lola Confirm F1 Intentions; USGPE To Have Car Ready By November?


Lola has confirmed it will press ahead with plans to submit an entry for the 2010 Formula One World Championship despite the likelihood of an increased budget cap.

The British-based company stunned the motorsport world last month by announcing it planned to undertake an extensive financial and technical evaluation into the feasibility of entering Formula One.

While Lola’s last attempt to re-enter the world of Formula One was marred by poor organisation and unstable finances, the company has taken measures to ensure it is prepared this time around.


“The original cap of £30 million, including engines, formed the basis of Lola’s initial interest,” Lola said in a statement.

“The decision by the WMSC to revise the figure to £40 million plus engines, marketing, hospitality and driver fees led to a re-examination of the opportunity by Lola culminating in today’s confirmation that it will proceed with its Formula 1 project.

In other news, US Grand Prix Engineering (USGPE) co-founder Peter Windsor has told the official F1 website his new team is eyeing a potential All-American driver line-up for next year.

Windsor said he and co-founder Ken Anderson have begun scouting the IndyCar and NASCAR circuits for potential drivers.

“There are some Americans doing quite well right now in single-seater racing from Ryan Hunter-Reay, Jonathan Summerton, Danica Patrick, Graham Rahal and A J Allmendinger, who has great credentials in NASCAR right now. And then the next generation looks really strong,” he said.

While USGPE’s entry is yet to be accepted, Anderson said his team can start producing parts by mid-June and potentially have a car on track by November.

“Depending on the engine, we will be running the car in the first week of January. But if all falls perfectly into place, we would like the car to be running in November/December,” he said.

13 Year Old Rally Prodigy Steers Group N Impreza To Victory In Indonesian Series


When I was 13 I could barely complete the beginners circuit in Sega Rally, but for 13 year old Indonesian Sean Galael, the art of rallying seems to come naturally.

The youngster is currently in the midst of competing in the KFC Junior Rally Sprint in Indonesia, where he has already won the first two rounds at the helm of a Prodrive Impreza Group N rally car - the same as that used in the Production World Rally Championship.

It’s not the first time Galael has come under the media spotlight for his motorsport prowess - in 2008, he navigated Prodrive’s David Maslen and former Australian rally champion Cody Crocker to victories in the Indonesian Rally Championship. When I was 12, I was failing maths.


The talented teen entered the field of rally through his father, Ricardo Galael, who won the Indonesian Rally Championship in 2006. Later this year Sean will return to the dusty tracks of the Indonesian series in the navigator’s seat of the Serge Motorsport Prodrive Impreza N14, for which we wish him luck.

We’ve got to wonder though, if this is what the kid is like at 13, what kind of rally-driving superstar will he be when he’s actually old enough to get a drivers license? We’ll keep an eye on this one.

2010 Toyota Prius Clocks Up 75,000 Orders, Management Shakeup On The Way


As the old adage goes, you take the good with the bad - something that Toyota is experiencing at the moment.

In the wake of Toyota’s first loss in 71 years, Japanese financial paper the Nikkei business daily is reporting that the world’s number one carmaker has racked up some 75,000 pre-sale orders for the upcoming 2010 Toyota Prius - a good deal more than the 40,000 orders the company was expecting.

While the all-new Toyota Prius has been beaten to the Japanese market by the 2009 Honda Insight, Toyota’s move to drop the price of the Prius appears to have given it a new competitive edge.


The Insight, launched in Japan in February, has taken nearly 20,000 sales in its first three months on the market.

According to The Financial Times, the June 23 annual shareholder’s meeting will see both the official appointment of Akio Toyoda to company president, along with a shake-up of senior management.

The company has announced that former senior executive Yoshimi Inaba has been coaxed back to Toyota to head-up the company’s US operations, and, as part of a sweeping overhaul of its internal structures, will replace up to 40 percent of its senior management at home and abroad.

The Motor Report contacted Toyota Australia for comment on local orders for the 2010 Toyota Prius, and while Public Relations Manager Mike Breen was reluctant to offer numbers, he confirmed that Australian orders have been taken for the new car.

When quizzed as to whether the Prius would see a similar delay in entering the Australian market to that expected for the Honda Insight, Breen confirmed that the Prius is on schedule for a July launch.

Mercedes-Benz Citaro Bus Takes World’s Largest Ambulance Title


It might not get you to the emergency room in record time (unless the record is ‘fastest trip to hospital in a coach‘), but by the looks of the extensive refit this Mercedes-Benz Citaro bus has received, you might not even need to see the inside of a hospital.

Dubai’s Centre of Ambulance Services has taken delivery of three such mobile clinics, built to ensure that rapid medical assistance can be rendered on the scene at major emergencies, rather than the life-threatening delays in getting victims to hospital.


mercedes-benz_citaro_ambulance_03 Thanks to the converted Citaro’s extra space and equipment, up to 20 people can be cared for in the fully equipped mobile clinic, complete with an intensive care unit and an operating theatre.

Developed by conversion-specialists Gebr. Heymann GmbH, and Von Bergh Global Medical Consulting, the Citaro-based ambulances are available in three variants.

Variant A is designed as a mobile intensive care unit, and variant B features equipment for large-scale treatment and transport of medium to slightly injured patients.

Variant C is a combination of the A and B versions, and can treat and transport more than 80 patients.

mercedes-benz_citaro_ambulance_04 Among the facilities and equipment aboard the mobile clinic ambulances are three observation bays, an ECG, and an InSpectra shock monitor, which measures oxygen saturation in tissue-matter, warning doctors of the onset of shock minutes before it occurs.

The buses also carry the world’s smallest X-ray unit, with an output so low that protective lead screens are unnecessary.

This isn’t the first time the Citaro has been used for purposes other than ferrying commuters, with fire service command vehicles, police buses, and mobile television studios figuring among the other uses the bus has served.

2010 Opel Astra: Opel Serves Up A Desktop Delight


With the upcoming 2010 Holden Cruze filling a similar niche and sharing its platform with the new Opel/Vauxhall Astra, we’re not likely to see the European hatch here in Australia.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t admire it from afar.

To help us do that (and to whet the appetites of those who will actually be able to buy it), Opel has offered up a batch of desktop wallpaper images for your computer.

Click on each image below to view them full-size.

The images have been made to suit desktop resolutions of 1600 x 1200 pixels, so while they won’t suit everyone’s needs, they’re sure nice enough to look at.





Now we return you to your regularly scheduled 2010 Opel Astra envy.

GreenGT Concept Visualises All-Electric Le Mans Racer

greengt_02_sFirst it was diesel, then ethanol, then KERS. Now, if Swedish firm GreenGT have its way, the world of motorsport may turn all-electric. GreenGT has produced an all-electric concept racer designed for the high-speed, long-endurance competition of the Le Mans 24 hour, and its certainly as ambitious as its wild styling suggests.

Based on an FIA-compliant carbon-fibre tub and suspended on the usual arrangement of double wishbones, the GreenGT concept at first looks almost conventional. Beneath the skin however, Green GT has delved into entirely new ground.

A pair of 100kW water-cooled electric motors are hooked up to a proprietary gearbox and differential, and torque output is a collosal 2000Nm. That’s more torque than The Incredible Hulk and Optimus Prime could ever generate, and enough to slow down the earth’s rotation with a simple flex of the ankle.


Power is supplied by two lithium-ion battery packs - each capable of delivering 30kWh of electricity - and an array of flexcell solar panels. Will it have enough juice to run just as long as the fossil-fueled competition? Would the pit crew simply slide in replacement battery packs during refueling stops? Would the FIA even allow such a device to turn its wheels in anger?

Good questions, but entirely irrelevant for the time being. the GreenGT is, for now, a concept, and while electric cars enjoy their own drag racing series in the USA, it may be quite some time before we see battery-powered racers hitting the circuit at Le Mans.

MotoGP: Jorge Lorenzo Takes Championship Lead In France


Spanish rider Jorge Lorenzo has stormed to the top of the MotoGP standings following a masterful performance at the French Grand Prix.

With the race declared rain-affected, riders started on wet set-ups but were given the opportunity to pit at any moment and switch to bikes prepared for dry conditions.

Lorenzo and Team Yamaha capitalised on the opportunity, delaying his stop while rivals immediately dove into pit lane, establishing a significant lead at the head of the pack which was only threatened by the Kawasaki of Marco Melandri.

However, the Italian’s challenge faded late in the race, handing Lorenzo his second victory of the season and a one-point lead in the World Championship, ahead of Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi.

After a heavy crash in Jerez, Lorenzo was thrilled to bounce back with victory at Le Mans, saying he doubted his chances for the race weekend.

“Well in my dreams this could not happen, but it is happening for real,” he said. “After (Jerez) there was just darkness in my mind, but after a few days I started concentrating on this race.

“I have been riding well all weekend here and especially today. If in Spain I rode badly in the race then here I was able to do my best and ride the way I know. I also had a little bit of luck because it could have been easy to crash.”


Honda’s Dani Pedrosa rounded off the podium with a strong performance, remaining on the limit for the race’s entirety as he swept past team mate Andrea Dovizioso on the last lap.

Stoner crossed the line fifth after struggling with the bike’s handling mid-way through the race, while fellow Aussie Chris Vermeulen enhanced his reputation as a wet-weather specialist, riding as high as fourth before securing a season-best sixth place finish.

The race though was an unmitigated disaster for the reigning World Champion as Rossi crashed early on before receiving a drive-through penalty to finish last, two laps behind Lorenzo.

Top Gear Australia Season Two, Episode Two: Once More, With Feeling


So, we’ve just witnessed the second episode of the second season of the second Top Gear franchise. Was it any good? As it happens, the answer is both a thumb-raising “yes”, and a head-shaking “no”.

While my colleague Steane was generally happy with the improvements made in the last episode of TGA, I was a little more critical. The dialogue is still stilted, particularly during the studio segments; James Morrison seems a little uncomfortable in front of the camera and the challenges need to be devised by someone with a better eye for drama.

Those concerns were still at the back of my mind during Episode two, and while it was markedly better than the first it still seems like Top Gear Aus is lacking polish.


Morrison is still an awkward character, and, being forced to spout some real clangers, this episode certainly didn’t help his cause (”Mid-life Chrysler”? What were they thinking?). The banter between Warren Brown and Steve Pizzati during the Model T tutorial was much more natural however, and something that TGA needs more of.

This week’s big challenge was between Brown and Pizzati, and involved both converting a conventional petrol-powered car into an all-electric number. It had great potential and was entertaining to watch, but it was brutally cut short by one of the cars suffering a catastrophic failure. In the end, it didn’t really go anywhere, didn’t prove anything, and didn’t give the pair much scope for hijinks.


The reversing camera challenge too was a bit oddball, and seemed like a flimsy pretext to deliver a PSA about reversing cameras. I can’t help but feel that it should’ve been scrapped and the precious minutes it consumed transferred to the stillborn electric car challenge.

On the flipside, the HSV Clubsport R8 vs. Walkinshaw Performance R8 segment was a good one, and allowed Pizzati to properly show off his knowledge of all things performance.

Warren Brown has the potential to be a good interviewer, but unfortunately this week’s guest - Ian Moss of Cold Chisel fame - didn’t really give him much to work with. That being said, it was good to see a guest who wasn’t an ‘obvious choice’ in the hotseat.

So yes, it’s another step in the right direction for Top Gear Australia. A baby step, but a step nonetheless. It’s got definite potential and the hosts seem to be up to the challenge. It still seems to be let down by the producers and writers that decide what they do, what they say and how they say it.

We’ll still be tuning in next week though.

Golf Takes Top Spot In European Market: Mixed Results For ‘Scrappage Schemes’


In a European new car market down 16.8 percent year-to-date, and down 17.5 percent in April, the 2009 Volkswagen Golf has taken top spot.

Volkswagen has also maintained its position as Europe’s best-selling brand, but with sales down 10.1 percent compared to 2008.

The biggest mover in the market however, according to European automotive data and intelligence provider, JATO Dynamics, is the 2009 Ford Fiesta with sales up 19.7 percent year-to-date and 26.9 percent for the month of April.


In the ‘big 5’ European car markets in particular (Germany UK, France, Italy and Spain), Fiesta is bolting and closing the gap on Golf.

Only two other cars in the top ten have managed to increase sales year-to-date over the same period in 2008: the 2009 Volkswagen Polo, up a slim 0.7 percent, and Fiat Panda up by 17.6 percent.

Small cars are clearly the showroom winners at present in a market that is bumping along in a mire of gloom. Year-to-date sales for 2009, across all market segments, are down nearly one million units (925,225) against the same period in 2008.


But, interestingly, although each of the top five markets have announced ‘scrappage schemes’ using cash incentives to encourage people to buy new smaller cars, only the resilient German market appears to be benefiting. There, while sales were down 3.1 percent in April, they are up 11.6 percent year-to-date.

In other European markets, and the UK and Spain in particular, where ‘scappage schemes’ are also in place, the effect of these is yet to be seen in sales results.

Take the Fiesta, Polo, Panda and Golf out of the equation, and it’s a bleak set of sums for European car makers. Perhaps the approach of summer may lift spirits… and sales.