Alonso embracing challenges of his ‘Indy 500 adventure

Fernando Alonso is on a personal “Indy 500 adventure” that is both a labor of love and ambition for the two-time Formula One champion.

The Spaniard will attempt to run the Indianapolis 500 next month, and hopefully, some day, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s part of his quest to win what’s considered the Triple Crown of racing — Alonso already has won the Monaco Grand Prix — but this bid will require him to master new cars and racing styles.

Maybe that’s why Indy is so appealing at this stage of his successful career.

“I want to be the most complete driver in the world and the best driver in the world and I want to win all the series in different cars with different driving techniques,” Alonso said Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park, where he’d flown from Europe to watch Andretti Autosport compete in the IndyCar race.

To be the most complete driver in the world, Alonso has a lofty goal for Indianapolis: “I need to win it. And if it’s not this year, we will plan it for the next attempt.”

Alonso drives for struggling McLaren in Formula One. He will be the sixth entry for Andretti Autosport at Indy in a partnership with Honda and McLaren. The 35-year-old has begun preparing for Indy by testing on a simulator, where the walls aren’t so intimidating and there’s no traffic to negotiate.

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He flew to Alabama on Saturday, had dinner with his fellow Andretti drivers and flashed both confidence and humor at a Sunday news conference. Team and IndyCar executives believe the Formula One-to-Indy move by such an accomplished driver is a win for all sides, bringing exposure across the ocean in both directions.

“I don’t think there’s one person that’s involved in this thing that’s not going to get something out of it,” said Michael Andretti, founder and CEO of Andretti Autosport. “I think it’s going to be a fantastic thing. I think there’s so much interest all over the world, and it’s going to be great for Formula One, great for IndyCar, great for the Indy 500, great for our team, great for McLaren.”

Andretti, a former IndyCar champion, raced for McLaren in Formula One in 1993.

Mark Miles, CEO of IndyCar’s parent company, Hulman & Company, plans a European tour to build on the renewed interest.

McLaren’s Zak Brown said he sees no downside to the endeavor. The team brought in Gil de Ferran, the 2003 Indy 500 winner, as driver coach for Alonso. And Alonso will get a full day test at the speedway early next month.

All parties have admitted that if McLaren and Honda weren’t struggling so much in F1 right now, Alonso never could have skipped Monaco to race Indianapolis.

“I’d like to see McLaren here on a more regular basis,” said Brown, executive director of McLaren Technology. “And would we do it with Fernando again? Absolutely. I hope that we have the problem of Monaco and Indy in the same weekend and we are fighting for the championship.

“So what happens in 2018, we’ll have to wait and see, because obviously we’re working very hard to get Fernando and Stoffel Vandoorne a much more competitive car than we are producing right now.”

This is McLaren’s first time in the Indy 500 in 38 years. Stefan Wilson gave up his ride to accommodate Alonso, and Brown called him “the unsung hero in this whole process.”

Alonso wants to wait until after the May 28 race to seriously contemplate a possible repeat performance. He’s also uncertain when he’d run the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which could force him to miss multiple Formula One races.

Then, it’s back to his regular job, preparing for the Russian Grand Prix. He’ll also run the Spanish Grand Prix on May 14.

Alonso said he didn’t tell anyone, even his family, about his decision until the day of his announcement.

As for his F1 peers, Alonso professes to learn their opinions only from comments in the media.

“We don’t talk much there,” he said. “It’s a different world. I don’t know, the only thing that I know is probably what you guys (reporters) read, you know, because it’s what I read, as well. Some of them are happy for me and happy for this thing and curious to see how competitive we can be. Some others, they are not happy with anything in life. So this was another thing for their own problems.

“But it’s OK. I think, different world.”

Source – TheJakartaPost

Sebastian Vettel wins Bahrain Grand Prix for Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel is back on top of the Formula One standings and his Ferrari team is bursting with ambition again.

A couple of hours after Vettel had held off his Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton to win an exciting Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday — the German driver’s second victory in three races — Ferrari’s chairman spoke with new-found confidence.

“It is, of course, hugely satisfying to be back on the top step of the podium,” Sergio Marchionne said. “More importantly, however, we are now completely confident that our victory in Melbourne wasn’t just a one-off and that we will be at the forefront of this world championship until the last (race).”

Fighting talk from Ferrari, at long last.

Vettel is chasing his fifth world title and is seven points ahead of three-time champion Hamilton in the drivers’ standings, while Ferrari is three points in front of Mercedes in the constructors’ race.

The renewed optimism is in contrast to last year, when Ferrari did not even win a race and where Vettel drew more attention for his frustrated outbursts during actual races rather than his driving.

Ferrari won the last of its 15 drivers’ titles through Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, and the last of its 16 constructors’ titles a year later. A demoralizing drought for such a fiercely proud team, certainly, but this year promises to be different.

“We finally have a competitive car to count on and it is important to recognize the speed with which we implemented the developments,” Marchionne said. “My compliments not just to Seb for his achievements in Bahrain, but also to the whole team.”

Rolls-Royce brings its malefic Black Badge to the Bangkok International Motor Show

Rolls-Royce brings its malefic Black Badge to the Bangkok International Motor Show.

Billed as the alter-ego of the world’s leading super luxury brand, the Rolls-Royce Black Badge makes its Southeast Asian debut this week, with the Wraith model showing its star quality to visitors at the 38th Bangkok International Motor Show.

According to Rolls Royce, Black Badge speaks to a younger, more assertive customer, the people they call the “rule breakers” and the “disrupters”, those that work hard in the day and commit the same intensity to play once darkness falls.

“Southeast Asia is now a global hub for highly successful young entrepreneurs, who have broken away from tradition to make their own mark in the world. Rolls-Royce Black Badge is presenting a darker and bolder proposition to suit this new attitude,” says Paul Harris, regional director for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in the Asia Pacific region.

“These clients are assertive, demanding and unafraid to take charge. Black Badge is the perfect bespoke answer to this distinctive, decisive and dynamic breed of owner-drivers without compromising the sublime Rolls-Royce driving experience.”

Starting from Bt35 million depending on the bespoke specification, the metamorphosis of the Rolls-Royce Wraith into its Black Badge alter-ego starts with the intensity of the black. Multiple layers of paint and lacquer are repeatedly hand-polished in the most exacting process ever developed for a solid colour. The result is a black that’s darker than night, sinister but sensuous and above all smart.

The Wraith Black Badge also includes a sophisticated centrepiece – aerospace-grade aluminium-threaded carbon fibre composite surfacing. Threads of aluminium just 0.014mm thick are woven together and bonded with carbon fibre through a painstaking process, resulting in one of the world’s most innovative and super-luxury materials.

Black Badge holds the ground with exclusive composite carbon fibre and lightweight alloy wheels, developed over four years, featuring 22 layers of carbon fibre laid in three axes and folded back on themselves to create 44 layers of strength. Further strength is added via a 3D forged, aircraft-grade aluminium hub, which is bonded to the rim using titanium fasteners.

And while the intense black will appeal to many, customers can specify whatever colour they want for the exterior and interior of their Rolls-Royce Black Badge.

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Bangkok International Motor Show kicks off today

Automakers hopeful of boost as motor show kicks off today

THE 38TH RUNNING of the annual Bangkok International Motor Show (BIMS) kicks off today at Impact Muang Thong Thani with automakers crossing their fingers for the market to continue growing after finishing last year with a slight shrinkage.

Altogether 768,788 vehicles were sold in the domestic market last year for a drop of 3.9 per cent, but auto companies are optimistic that the market has bottomed out and sales would reach 800,000-810,000 units this year.

The BIMS is considered a sales extravaganza, with companies launching fleets of new and improved models while dangling irresistible promotions.

More than 30 auto and 12 motorcycle brands are showcasing their products at the event, which goes to April 9.

“The BIMS is an auto exhibition event that brings together the highest level of automotive technology and one that helps drive the economy,” said Prachin Eamlumnow, chairman of the organizing committee. 

“Throughout the event, starting from construction to the last day, no less than Bt40 billion is expected to be spent.”

The show serves as a platform for displaying the latest automotive trends. It also helps stimulate the car market, allowing consumers to compare makes and models by visiting just a single venue.

Several companies are also showing off futuristic concept vehicles.

Toyota is displaying its FCV Plus, while Mitsubishi is putting the spotlight on the MiEV Evolution III. Nissan is unveiling its SOFC (solid oxide fuel cell) vehicle, featuring the world’s first bio-ethanol electric power system.

Prachin expects increased competition in the passenger-car market this year.

“Since the start of the year, there has been a good number of new passenger car launches for small and medium-sized models, which were postponed from last year because of the passing away of King Bhumibhol. The premium market is also seeing a lot of action due to the increasing number of players,” he said.

The premium segment is welcoming a new player, as Meister Technik Co has been appointed as the new official Audi importer and is offering a large combination of models to compete against leaders Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

Many consumers are ready to replace vehicles purchased through the last elected government’s first-car-buyer scheme, with the five-year ownership requirement ending last October for the first batch of buyers.

“We believe that this group of buyers will start looking for a new vehicle, but we can’t pinpoint what type of vehicle they will be interested in. They could upgrade to a larger model or still go for a small car,” Prachin said. 

Eased financing measures during the past two years have helped more people purchase vehicles, he added.

 Source – TheNation

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Sebastian Vettel wins first grand Prix in Melbourne.

The 2017 Formula 1 season is looming as a shoot-out between the sport’s greatest modern drivers after Sebastian Vettel won the Australian Grand Prix, 10 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

The Brit started the day in pole position but a tactical misjudgement from his Mercedes team allowed the Ferrari driver to take the lead on lap 24, and the German held on with ease to claim the first race win for the Prancing Horse since 2015.

Valtteri Bottas finished behind his Mercedes team-mate to claim the final podium position, while local hope Daniel Ricciardo endured a miserable afternoon, bowing out of the race with a whimper on lap 30.

Hamilton (three) and Vettel (four) have seven championships between them, but have never competed against each other in evenly matched machines, meaning the 2017 season now looms as a mouth-watering showdown between the two.

“It is a long way ahead. For now we are just over the moon,” Vettel said after the race.

“The car is really screaming, ‘more, more, more’,” he said of the rule changes which promised to bring Mercedes back to the pack slightly and give fans more action-packed racing than in 2016.

Ricciardo, due to start from 15th on the grid after his Red Bull team were forced to change the gear box in his car after yesterday’s crash, did not make it through the warm-up lap before problems surfaced.

His car stuck in sixth gear, leaving him stranded on the track. He was given a lift back to the pits and his team frantically worked to get the engine going again. They eventually did so, two laps into the race.

Relatively clean start gives Hamilton the early lead

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Supercar caravan marks Ferrari’s 70th anniversary

FERRARI importer Cavallino Motors is staging a caravan of 70 Ferraris from Bangkok to Ayutthaya Historical Park on March 25 today to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Italian sports-car brand.

Making its appearance in Thailand is the LaFerrari Aperta, a hybrid supercar. Only 209 cars will be built and one is available for Thailand.

Cavallino Motors enjoyed 60-per-cent sales growth during the past two years, which it attributes to improved after-sales facilities, and plans to open more centres in the future, said Voravud Bhirombhakdi, the company’s vice president.

“Establishing more integrated service centres is the goal,” he said.

 It is also offering restoration services for cars older than 20 years, offering certificates from the Ferrari factory in Italy, which helps boost resale value.

In terms of unit sales, managing director Nondhamalee Bhirombhakdi said, the company’s growth each year is driven by the popularity of models among the Ferrari fan club in Thailand. This depends on the price – a higher-priced model tends to lead to a more niche client base |but revenue per unit will be higher. 

The company offers a wide range of models, including vehicles for everyday life such as eight-cylinder models – California T, 488 GTB and Spider – as well as 12-cylinder models such as GTC4 Lusso and the newest 812 Superfast, she said. 

The company can also arrange financing deals to meet customers’ budgets, in line with the goal to increase trade-ins of second-hand Ferraris for new models. 

As many as 60 per cent of sales come from new customers introduced by existing customers, Nondhamalee said.

Source – TheNation

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Singapore’s first supercar unveiled at Geneva Motor Show

Singapore’s first supercar is making its debut at the prestigious Geneva Motor Show, which runs from March 9 to 19.

The Dendrobium, designed by local company Vanda Electrics and jointly developed and built with Williams Advanced Engineering, is an electric two-seater with four motors powered by Formula E lithium batteries.

From a raw numbers perspective, the Dendrobium is undeniably deserving of the supercar label: going from 0kmh to 100kmh in 2.7 seconds and boasting a top speed of around 320kmh.

With a chassis made from carbon fibre, the Dendrobium’s roof and doors are rear-hinged and open upwards and backwards simultaneously, a deliberate echo of the orchid species the car gets its name from.

Honeycomb patterns are a recurring design theme, extending even to the car’s dashboard buttons.

The Dendrobium remains a concept car for now, which means that it does not have all the finalized features a production version would.

The Geneva Motor Show will be the litmus test to see if the supercar will enter production, Vanda Electric’s chief executive Larissa Tan told CAR Magazine.

“The plan is to do so, but reaction at Geneva will be key. If it does, it will be made in the tens rather than the hundreds,” said Ms Tan.

Production might then begin sometime in 2020.

The company has not announced a specific price for the Dendrobium yet but Ms Tan told the Straits Times in October that the figure would be “in the millions”.

Still, the supercar is but a lighthouse project for Vanda Electric, meant to bring attention to the company’s bread-and-butter electric mobility products.

These include a light truck powered by battery packs for various ranges, and a single-seat e-scooter targeted for densely built-up cities.

Source; TheNation

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Max Verstappen: “I think everything is still within reach.”

After the fourth and final test day Max Verstappen remains confident about his chances for next season. De Limburger, which is the final test session – partly in the rain – in his RB13 concluded with the second fastest time behind the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, talks about a successful week. “Actually, nothing here really surprised me in Barcelona, the last four days. And I think everything is still within reach.”

“For us it was important to make the meters with the new car. Get used to the car and team and see if all parts of the car to do what they should do. The car behaves happy just fine.”

Porsche will builds a high-performance Panamera Hybrid

German brand builds on new Panamera range with high-tech plug-in hybrid variant.

Porsche has wasted little time building upon its initial three model strong second-generation Panamera line-up.
 
Just two months after the unveiling of the 4S, 4S Diesel and Turbo, the German car maker has now unveiled the 4 E-Hybrid ? the fourth and most technically advanced of the new 2017 Panamera models to date.
 
One of two petrol-electric hybrid models planned to join the new Panamera line-up, the four-wheel drive Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is set to make its public premiere at the 2016 Paris motor show later this month prior to the start of Australian deliveries in 2017.

Priced at $242,600 (plus on-road costs), it succeeds the earlier 4 S E-Hybrid with a claimed 50km electric range, combined consumption of just 2.5L/100km on the European test cycle along with an official 0-100km time of 4.6sec and 278km/h top speed.
 
At the heart of the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is a newly developed petrol-electric drivetrain also set to appear in next year’s Cayenne E-Hybrid. It uses Porsche’s recently unveiled twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine tuned to 243kW and 450Nm of torque in combination with an electric motor mounted in the front of the gearbox capable of delivering up to 100kW and 400Nm of torque.
 
Together, the combustion engine and electric motor provide a combined system output of 340kW and sturdy 700Nm. This provides the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid with 34kW and 110Nm more than the first-generation Panamera S E-Hybrid it replaces in the Porsche line-up.  
 
It is also 16kW and 150Nm up on the second-generation Panamera 4S, which is powered by a more heavily tuned version of Porsche’s twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 engine, albeit without the assistance of an electric motor.
 
Significantly, Porsche has altered the programming of the electric motor to provide greater emphasis on performance. It now kicks in the moment the throttle is depressed. Previously, the throttle needed to be 80 per cent engaged before the reserves of the electric motor were combined with those of the combustion engine in an earlier strategy aimed at optimizing economy.

According to Porsche, the new programming is based on that originally developed for the 918 Spyder. It allows the driver to call up additional power from the electric motor at all times.   
 
The result is a 0.9sec reduction in the 0-100km/h time along with a 8km/h increase in top speed over the superseded Panamera S E-Hybrid at 4.6sec and  278km/h respectively. The official fuel economy figure of 2.5L/100km on the European test cycle also makes it more economical than its predecessor, which was rated at 3.1L/100km.  
 
As on other second-generation Panamera models revealed to date, drive is channelled through a new eight-speed dual clutch gearbox and multi-plate clutch four-wheel drive system. The earlier Panamera S E-Hybrid, on the other hand, used an eight-speed torque converter-equipped automatic gearbox.
  
Altogether, there are six different driving modes. They include the Sport and Sport Plus modes of other new Panamera models equipped with the Sport Chrono package, along with the E-Hybrid specific modes of E-power, Hybrid Auto, E-Hold and E-Charge.
  
As with its predecessor, Porsche’s latest hybrid model is programmed to start in E-power mode. With a fully charged battery, it is claimed to provide a pure electric range of up to 50km at speeds limited to 140km/h.
  
Power for the Panamera E-Hybrid’s electric motor is provided by a liquid cooled lithium ion battery. Despite boasting a 4.7kWh increase in energy storage at 14.1kWh, it is claimed to weigh no less than unit used by the older Panamera S E-Hybrid.
 
Porsche says the battery can be charged in 5.8 hours using a standard 3.6kW charger, while an optional 7.2kW charger is claimed to reduce the charging time to 3.6 hours. Charging can be started via the Porsche Communication Management infotainment system or remotely via the Porsche Car Connect app. An auxiliary air conditioner also now allows the cabin to be cooled during charging.
 
A so-called power meter allows the driver to keep tabs of the operation of the hybrid driveline via a standard 12.3 inch touch screen display. Similar to that found on the 918 Spyder, it provides detailed data on energy storage, including the amount of electrical energy being used in real time as well as that recovered through recuperation. There is also a boost assistant that displays the energy available for boosting performance via the electric motor as well as a hybrid assistant that provides information on how to regulate the electric drive for maximum economy.
 
The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid rides on a standard air suspension. The newly developed underpinnings use a three chamber design in combination with electronic damper control and dynamic chassis control that supports torque vectoring and active roll stabilisation.

Read all the latest Porsche news and reviews here
 

Red Carpet at Ferrari roll out for son Schumacher

MARANELLO – The Italian racing team Ferrari hopes to incorporate the son of Michael Schumacher in the training program. The Seventeen-year-old Mick Schumacher can follow in the footsteps of his illustrious father, who for years ruled the Formula 1 in the red car of Ferrari and won it five of his seven world titles. For the ‘junior Schumi’ stay the door wide open at Ferrari.

,,If he wants to join our training program, is the red carpet for him, ” said Massimo Rivola Ferrari in Italian media. ,, Mick was raised very well, compliments to his parents. He is already under great pressure from the media at his young age, but he’s going to be very good.”

Mick Schumacher has never made a secret that he, like his father ever wants to become world champion in Formula 1. The teenager made his debut two years ago at the race team of Frits van Amersfoort in Formula 4. After two years in which racing series comes Schumacher junior next season out in the Formula 3 for the Italian team Prema.