Monday, February 13, 2006

F1 Grand Prix - 2006

The count down for the 2006 F1 Grand Prix has begun.

2005 was an interesting year with mixed results mixed lucks for F1. It began carriers, it ended few. It gave birth to a new champion and many more fierce competitors. While Michael Schumacher and Ferrari had a bad run, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen fought a long battle for the Apex spot with Alonso coming on top, with a bit of luck in his favor, or should I say with Kimi having a fair share of ill-luck? India too had its very own Narain Karthikeyan on the track, who for a rookie performed well but had to go through some rough ride and lost the following year’s contract to his teammate Tiago Monteiro, who went on to clinch not only a podium finish in the controversial US GP but also the best Rookie award for 2005. Speaking of the controversy, the US GP triggered world wide criticism for the way it was handled. The issue began when the tyre company Michelin brought in wrong tyres to the GP that almost cost the life of Ralf Schumacher during testing when it failed to break properly at a turn following a high speed stretch. Michelin advised all its teams to avoid racing for safety reasons and the race went on with 6 cars from three teams that ran on Bridgestone. Michael won his first and only race of the season. Though I personally feel that its not fair to call off the race since Bridgestone did their home work right, it earned the Boos of the spectators who spent all their sweat waiting to watch their favorite heroes in this race; it’s an embarrassing moment in F1 History and a day that all but maybe Tiago would want to forget.

2005 ended with a good note and gave way to 2006, a year full of changes.
BMW split from Williams after a long period of successful run. BMW bought over Sauber to have its own team while Williams went in for Cosworth engines.
Honda bought over BAR.
Rubens Barrichello moved out of Ferrari, may be because he was tired being the second driver behind the still competent Michael. He is now with Honda.
Narian Karthikeyan was out of Jordan (Now Midland F1), and has now joined Williams as the forth driver. Better than nothing!

With growing technology, restricted power output and cost reduction attempts, the gap between F1 teams are reducing making it anyone's ball game (or say Wheel game).

I can’t wait to see this years F1 and I recon this will be one of the best in recent times.

The Calendar for this year’s F1 is:

While Brazil's inclusion is subject to approval, Belgium is officially out of this year’s race following infrastructure problems.

All major teams have released there 2006 F1 cars fitted with the new v8 engines.
Here is a glimpse of the newer, meaner machines with their drivers (in Lexicographic order)





Midland F1:




2006 also has a new and weird Qualifying Rule:

Here is how it works. For the first 15 minutes all 22 drivers can clock times. The slowest 6 will take up the last 6 positions on the grid and be eliminated from the rest of qualifying. The remaining 16 drivers will have their times deleted and clock times in the next 15 minutes. The slowest 6 of those 16 will take up positions 11 to 16 and not participate in the rest of qualifying. The remaining 10 drivers will use the last 30 minutes to decide the top 10 positions. Got it?

Clearly, its going to be an exciting year!

Monday, January 16, 2006

How fast is an F1 car?

We’ve all seen or heard that the F1 cars are really fast. But how fast are they anyway?

In a nutshell, The 2400 CC, 750 BHP (@ 19,000 RPM) F1 car is capable of moving from 0 to 160 and back to 0 in just five seconds! A mini jet can take-off at 160. With speeds touching 300 and more, it’s the aerodynamic down force that keeps the car on the ground. From a straight line to a curve, the driver, breaks the car from over 300 to less than 50 KMPH in 3 seconds experiencing 4 Gs, that’s like hitting a concrete wall at 300 KMPH.

If you think all these statistics are crazy, lets take the Mercedes A160, a mini car from Mercedes that is as quick at most of the other mid size cars zipping from 0 to 100 in 11.6 seconds, the Mercedes E50, that could do the same in under 6 seconds. Let’s see if they stand a chance against the Mc Laren Mercedes F1 car!

Tip: If your network is slow, play the video and pause it immediately. Give sometime for the clipping to buffer before you play it again.

This video may be old, but still gives you a good idea how fast an F1 car is! And what it takes to drive it.

Thanks to RacingVideoz for this link.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Ford Endeavour

A nice Attempt

Ford Endeavour is better known as Ford Everest in other parts of the world. Maybe because of its inheritance from the Ford Ranger Pickup truck, this SUV feels more truck-like. It’s massive, mature, rugged and definitely male :).

The exterior of the Endeavour is identifiably Ford and undeniably a sight snatcher. This picture perfect bison has a very striking appearance with bold chrome grills, bright clear lens headlamps and round mould indicators fitting right on the high raised face. The back with vertical lights and a covered Stephney though looks simple has an attitude.

The duel tone color with a silver gray lower body looks great, and goes well with the mighty tyres and the crafted alloy wheels. In all it looks like how an SUV should, yet not as sophisticated as the Honda CRV or the Chevy (Subaru) Forester.

The inside too is neatly done. The console is well detailed but lacks charm and old dash and needs some rethinking. He’s a tall man and will let you get in and out of him at ease. The head room and leg room is great in the front and the second row, but the third row makes the knee fold a little bit, actually, more than a little bit :). It’s good only for kids or luggage.

He’s got all the leather for an SUV, but has he got the muscle? I took a test drive and this is how I felt,

The 2.5 Litre, 111 BHP Turbo Diesel engine might look decent but for a vehicle of this size, it’s definitely underpowered. The acceleration is not great as it takes a whooping 20 seconds to reach the first three digit speed, hm… really slow for an SUV that cost in 7 digits. The ride quality is quite good, the suspension is great on the road, and it glides over pot holes. The 4X2 city version is easy to maneuver despite its size. The high seating and huge bonnet give you the King-of-the-road feeling. As of the 4X4 off-roader, it still is not perfect. The shift from the two-wheel to four-wheel drive cannot be done on the fly, the vehicle needs to stop to change. Our home made Safari has this option.
The obvious problem Endeavour has would be its parking. It’s tough to park, to take a U-turn or even reverse through a narrow lane.

He’s massive but still not that thirsty. Surprisingly the Endeavour gives a decent 7.5kmpl in city and 11kmpl on the highways. Its large tank assures a long journey before a refill.

Finally, the Endeavour is typically a made-up pickup truck, but who said truck can’t look pretty? The vehicle is not powerful enough to match it size, and parking is a pain. But the better side is a good ride feeler, good space, good mileage and a decent off-road driving, that the Endeavour offers. The 4X2 is a better bet as the 4X4 needs more refinement and bites more into your pocket. With SUVs like the Safari in the market, it’s going to make the Endeavour run for every rupee.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Maruti Suzuki Zen

Fun with the Zen…

We had to take a long journey from Bangalore to a place near Vellore in Tamil Nadu. We were 5 of us and we decided to drive all the way on our cheeky Zen.

The new Zen, much
like any other car in the market, needed some face lifting of attire and Maruti rightfully gave it a full swing makeover. The obvious change being the new front grill that reminds us of the bygone Peugeot 309. The new fender and the clear-glass head lamps are bigger and brighter. The new double grill and the circular fog lamps are added features in the front. The rear too has its share of changes with a new rear windscreen, more visible multi-reflector tail lamps, and a very useful rear wiper. The new hatchback door with an obvious number plate has however taken away the charm of the rear. One impressive thing is the flawless painting and neat finish that adds class to this speedy coyote.

Interiors by and large remain same and
sane. The Console has got white dials, and the gear handle looks a lot sportier. If you are looking for great space, you’ve reached the wrong address. This car is good for four and difficult for 5. The leg room both in the front and the rear is inadequate and getting in and out could be quite a dance. And needless to say this short beast is no friend of a tall man’s head.

All that is fine, how does it perform?? I am getting to the point.
Driving the Zen is sheer pleasure and this car is a crush at first drive. The 400 odd KMs drive was simply delightful. The All-Aluminum 993cc 16V engine generates a max of 60 BHP at 6000 RPM, capable of accelarating from 0 to 100 in 14 seconds and reaching a defined maximum speed close to a 150 KMPH. On road we found that these figures were not deceiving, she relentlessly zoomed close to 130 KMPH despite AC and full load. With the golden quadrilateral still in progress, roads good, bad and worse were still available, and the MsPherson suspension of the Zen passed this load test (well not in distinction though). The low ground clearance not only can take your car for a BANG and catch you dozing while driving, but also makes it difficult to drive in highways against the senseless high-beam drivers from the far-end.
The gear shifts are really smooth and the electronic power steering made drive in Bangalore city’s heavy traffic less painful.

Zen is known to be as thirsty as a Camel (Trust me!)… With full load and AC on, you can still manage close to 12kmpl in city limit and 16kmpl on the highways. Zen also has a 16 bit computer on board that measures certain parameters like engine oil, temperature, engine speed and controls the fuel intake. This ensures lower emission.

The Zen is now 10 years old and Maruti is striving hard to keep it going. Its dated design has given very less provisions for implementing current day’s safety norms. Features like ABS, Airbags are still absent. Yet, for its great ride quality, good fuel efficiency, Maruti’s well established service network and its resale value, this car is worth every penny it’s paid for.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hyundai Santro Xing

Sing with the Xing…

Thanks to the facelift from the Zip-drive model, Xing looks little better and mature. Though it’s still sticking to its auto-rickshaw appearance, it’s far more appealing and acceptable now.

The Styling is contemporary with new single line chrome grill (in the latest version), clear glass headlamps, high and bright tail lamps added with sporty tall spoiler and imposed fog lamps in higher variants. The length of the car has been slightly increased compared to its older sister, giving it better leg room and boot. The interiors are simple and easy to use. The two-tone dash-board though has a theme lacks character and looks plasticy. The standard upholstery too is not worth a special mention. The leg and the head have enough room and will let you get in and out at ease. This happy go car fits four well while five becomes a bit cumbersome.

As a safety feature crumble zones have been introduced, its basically making the front part to crumble in effect of a collision, reducing the impact on the passengers, though this saves lives, the obvious problem is that the body is too malleable and vulnerable to dents.

Moving to performance the 12V SOHC, 4 cylinder, 1086cc Epsilon engine delivers a decent 63ps at 5500 rpm. Santro is definitely not a speed demon, it moves from 0 to 100 in over 15 seconds and delivers a top speed of around 140 KMPH on road; of course it starts to rattle as you cross the 120 mark. The lack of great power makes highway drive a little lull, but its turning radius and high seating provides a good zippy drive in the city. Being a tall boy it has lesser center of gravity and must be handled safely. Luckily the inclusion of ABS as an option reduces risk. The Automatic version too gives a great driving feel in the city but hampers performance in the highways.

Much like many Korean cast iron engines, Santro too is not a mileage master, and it delivers an average of 10 KMPL in city and 16 KMPL in the highways. But the latest eRLX promises more mileage and power through its 'Active Intelligence' technology. Technologies like ones below sound jazzy,

Rotary Head Intelligent Valve Actuator (RHiA)
Differentially Programmed Intelligent Injection (DPiI)
Real time Intelligent Ignition (RTiI)
Fuel Quality Immunizer
Optima Design Combustion Chamber
Ultra Low Friction Piston rings

And promise Refined Power Output, Best in class Torque, Improved Fuel Mileage, Reduced Emissions, Less Wear & Tear and Enhanced Engine Life. But it’s still too early to see how effective and efficient they really are.

Over all, Santro is doing all it can do to stick to the market and has been by and large successful. Its decent ride quality, and decent mileage, though nothing to flaunt with, gives no reason to shun it either. Still with a price not too far from the Suzuki Swift or its own sister the GETZ, some one needs to have special reasons to go for it. This is a Sun-Shine car, but the sky is cloudy.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Maruti Suzuki Baleno

Maruti Suzuki Baleno

To begin with, the Baleno is an old wine in an old bottle. The revolutionary European styling by a Japanese car-manufacturer has stood long enough and is desperate for full swing make-over. Maruti did give a minor face lift when it introduced the LXi, the economy variant in the market. The new honeycomb front grill and clear lens headlamps bring some smile to the otherwise droning face. The rear is still crying for attention. The boot, though spacious for a family outing, looks boxy and homes a pair of dull sliced-bread like tail lamps. The standard rear spoiler however dated, at least make this car noticeable in the parking lot. Alloy wheels, part of the standard equipment in the VXi variant, are a class apart and ups the over-all side appearance.

The Interiors are cool. The upholstery is neat and comfortable. Over to the dashboard, the a/c outlet has got a trim aluminum look, the dials have got a new white base, though I am not sure how they help in night driving, and the over-all dark finish of the dashboard makes it feel less plasticy. Leg space is adequate and getting in/out is not a problem even from the driver’s seat, yet head-room in the rear is a problem for tallers.

Moving on from stylei to substance, Baleno is fully loaded with substance. The 1590 cc, 16 Value, 94 BHP is a charging bull with unmatched torque. The all-aluminum engine provides performance and durability. Despite figures far less impressive compared to other cars of its class, it is by far the fastest in its class. It has great handling and superb suspensions to make you glide even on bad roads. The gear shifting could be hard for few weeks, but gets better as days go.

Who ever said performance and fuel-efficiency are inversely proportional need to think twice. With figures of 10 Kmpl in city and 15 kmpl on the highway, Baleno is still the most full-efficient car in its class, no wonder it’s truly Japanese. The tyres are good but are unable yield to the car’s performance. At high speeds, this car with wider tyres would have better grip and make your drive un-forgettable. Baleno’s 13 sound reductions techniques though sounds (and is) a little exaggerating, does make the car less noisy. And its aircon is the best one can ask for.

For reasons by far not clear, yet not clandestine, this car has been in under-rated and survived in the silhouette of other cars for a long time now. But with cars like the Ikon, Lancer remaining the same from days of their launch, and Honda City downgrading its performance, one good make-over can put this car in the lead for good. And with Maruti’s M800, Zen, Wagan-R, Esteem, Omni and very recently the Alto getting a face-lift, Baleno’s turn is not far away.

Few extra features like, ABS, Airbags and wider types would have added class to this speeding beauty.

Finally the price tag, for all this performance and efficiency, Baleno is far cheaper than the rest. And, for the price tag coated, cheap spares and Maruti’s un-paralleled service network this car is hard to resist.

Did I tell you that this Baleno is sold as Suzuki Esteem in many countires around the globe?