Tuesday 29 April 2014

Do you know where your car was made?

South Africans really love their cars – it is plain to see in everyday life here, but if you require further evidence you can look to the steady increase in the number of people with car insurance, this despite the costs of our cover being among the world’s most expensive. The global automotive industry has come a long way since the humble horse and carriage in the 1800s, and globalisation has played a huge role in the success and competitiveness of car manufacturers around the world.

Cars have become a part of what we do every day. They are intricately entrenched in our lifestyles and we often take them for granted, but how often do we don’t stop to think where they actually come from?

One of the most popular car brands among South Africans is the Toyota Hilux, with 2 739 sold here in the month of September 2013. Toyota originates in Japan and has its headquarters in Tokyo. In South Africa, all Toyotas are made at Toyota’s headquarters in the Kwazulu-Natal – these are then transported to Toyota dealerships across the country. Another popular vehicle is the VW Polo, selling 2 634 models (September 2013) and the Polo Vivo (2435 sales). VW comes from Germany and is still currently made in Wolfsburg, Germany. Locally, the VW factory is situated in Uitenhage, an industrial town 35 km outside Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. VW is then also transported to VW dealerships all over the country.

Because car making comes with so many different factors, manufacturers are always looking for new and innovative ways to get ahead of the competition. Many are using the popular Just-In-Time (JIT) system, to make sure their cars get onto the showroom faster. The JIT system means the parts arrive only when they are needed. This reduces inventory and production costs, but it relies on supply and demand. The system of inventory requires an accurate forecast in demand, keeping assembly lines complete and making sure finished vehicles are shipped as soon as they are done.

This means that because Asia currently has the best industrial mix of low-cost technology and affordable labour, it is a firm favourite when it comes to the manufacture of motor vehicles. This is why most brands of vehicles have factory plants there.

Other hugely popular vehicle brands in South Africa are Ford, BMW and Mercedes. While the Ford it is a product of General motors, an American firm, it was likely assembled in Asia. Silverton, Pretoria is the manufacturing home of all Ford vehicles in South Africa. BMW and Mercedes Benz are German products. BMW is headquartered in Munich, Germany and is locally based in Rosslyn, near Pretoria. Mercedes Benz has its headquarters in the German city of Stuttgart, while its local plant is in East London, Eastern Cape.

Peugeot and Renault are French vehicles and if you’re lucky enough to drive a Ferrari, your car was most likely hand crafted in Italy. Hyundai, Kia and Daewoo come from Korea, while Honda and Mitsubishi have their origins in Japan.

Cars and vehicles have evolved so much in the last century; we have gone from the horse and carriage to multi-million rand luxury vehicles. People have also changed their preference in automotive transport, and instead of expensive super cars, which only the extremely wealthy can afford, they are moving toward more practical vehicles. For example, the newest innovations in car manufacturing are cars that can park themselves – Ford and Honda are among the first to do this. It cuts parking time and is especially popular among women and new drivers who haven’t yet mastered parallel parking.

According to consumerreports.org, the top car manufacturers include: Ford, Toyota and Honda. They rank higher than luxury cars such as Cadillac and BMW, due to their constant innovations in making driving easy and safe, especially for the family. As stated before, there are so many aspects that go with manufacturing a car in conjunction with JIT, and 74% of total motor vehicles are those owned by private motorists and the remaining 26% amount to public and commercial vehicles such as buses and trucks. 

Most of the world’s cars come from China, with 14 485 326 produced in 2011 alone (worldmeters.info). This can be attributed to the fact that the average car has over 30 000 unique parts. Most of the additional pieces, such as seat covers, music systems, lights, mirrors and new electronics such as hands-free kits are made and installed in China. It’s cheaper and faster for the industry to perform operations in this way, and the quality remains fairly good.

South Africans spend a lot of time in their cars and are willing to spend a lot of money on them. It is wise to get your car covered by a decent insurance policy so that if something happens to it you’ll be safe in the knowledge that you can restore it to its former glory.

Ayrton Senna: The man behind the legend

The young Ayrton Senna in his Karting days.
Source: FormulaOneStuff.com
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the tragic passing of Brazilian Formula One legend Ayrton Senna. The tragic accident on 1 May 1994, sent shockwaves through the world of Formula One and all around the world. The funeral in his hometown of Sao Paulo drew hundreds of thousands. Ayrton Senna da Silva was born on 21 March 1960. He was a Brazilian racing driver who won three Formula One World Championships and had began his motorsport career in karting, moving up to open-wheel racing in 1981, and winning the British Formula 3 championship in 1983.

The winner of the 1991 Brazilian Grand Prix Ayrton Senna.
Source: Formula1.com
Senna made his Formula One debut with Toleman in 1984 before moving to Lotus the following year and winning six Grand Prix’s over the next three seasons. In 1988, he joined Alain Prost at McLaren. Among them, they won all but one of the 16 Grand Prix’s that season and Senna claimed his first World Championship. Prost claimed the championship in 1989, and Senna his second and third championships in 1990 and 1991. In 1992, Senna managed to finish the 1993 season as runner-up, winning five races and negotiating a move to Williams for the 1994 season.

Former F1 driver John Watson said "He did things with the car that I hadn’t even thought about, let alone put in to practice. After witnessing this, I knew that my time as racecar driver was effectively over.”
Ayrton Senna the Rain-master piloting his McLaren.
Source: McLarenF1
Ayrton Senna is and will also be well known for his exceptional driving during wet conditions, winning almost every Grand Prix in those conditions. But he wasn't always a rain-master. He would win every race in the dry, but when it rained, he wasn’t any good. Completely unhappy with his results in the rain, Ayrton would sit at his local karting circuit, just waiting for it to rain. He would spend hours in the wet, often coming home soaking wet. While every other driver wanted shelter in the wet conditions, Ayrton was the first to get out there and drive.

Ayrton Senna - "Being a racing driver means you are racing with other people. And if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing, competing to win. And the main motivation is to compete for victory; it's not to come 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th. I race to win as long as I feel it's possible. Sometimes you get it wrong? Sure, it's impossible to get it right all the time. But I race designed to win, as long as I feel I'm doing it right."

A famous photograph of Senna getting a lift from Mansell.
Source: formulaonestuff.com
Ayrton Senna has been voted the best driver of all time in various motorsport polls. He was recognized for his qualifying speed over one lap and from 1989 until 2006 held the record for most pole positions. He was also much-admired for his wet weather performances, such as the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, the 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix, and the 1993 European Grand Prix. He holds a record six victories at the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix, and is the third most successful driver of all time in terms of race wins. Senna courted controversy throughout his career, particularly during his rivalry with Alain Prost. Both the 1989 Championship won by Prost and the 1990 Championship won by Senna were decided by collisions between the pair at those years' Japanese Grands Prix.

Ayrton Senna F1 Statistics:

Ayrton Senna focussed on the job at hand.
Source: RoadandTrack.com

Races Attended
Races Won
Pole Positions
Fastest Laps
3 (1988 1990 1991)

The children who attend the Instituto Ayrton Senna.
Source: Michele Zollini
Ayrton Senna’s greatest accomplishments may have come off the track. It only became clear after his unfortunate death that Senna had been donating millions of his own money to charities for children in his home country. Senna recognized the hardships that many of his countrymen faced and was most concerned about kids and their future.

The legacy of Senna's death is that safety standards in F1 and across numerous other formulas have improved significantly. No driver has lost their life in F1 since Senna's death. Ayrton Senna da Silva exuded something that we have never seen before, and likely never will again. Ayrton Senna da Silva gone to soon!

Special THANKS to Riaz Aziz and Rahiema Hoosain.

Thursday 3 April 2014

Safety in Formula 1: The Safety Car (Part Six)

By: Junaid Samodien

The Mercedes AMG Safety car out on track in Korea.
Source: F1.com
After a lengthy pause in the Safety in Formula 1 series, I have decided to bring it back! This new article will focus on the “safety car”. What is a safety car? A Safety Car is a car which limits the speed of the racing cars on a racetrack in the case of an accident, obstruction or because the track is waterlogged after heavy rain. When the safety car is sent out the immediate job is to pick up the leader. Drivers are then not allowed to pass the safety car or one another, and the safety car usually leads the field at a safe stipulated speed until the safety conditions have improved and the safety car would then be brought in and racing will then resume.

According to Formula 1 regulations, the safety car enters the circuit “whenever there is an immediate hazard but the conditions do not require the race to be interrupted”. The use of a safety car can make racing more competitive when team strategists incorporate a “safety car windows” into their initial strategies (if a driver requires a pitstop during the Grand Prix). Drivers and cars use less fuel while running under the safety car, which would prove to be an advantage with these new 2014 Formula 1 Sporting Regulations where cars are required to start a Grand Prix with a maximum fuel limit of 100 kg’s. 

The first ever Safety car leading the field at the 1973 Canadian F1 Grand Prix.
Source: F1 History.
Where was the First Safety car used? The first use of the safety car in Formula 1 was at the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix, but took its place ahead of the wrong driver, which then placed the field (drivers) on a lap down. It took approximately several hours after the Grand Prix to determine the actual winner of the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix. The Safety Car was officially introduced at the start of the 1993 season and the first car to be used was a Fiat Tempra at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

What were the procedures that need to be followed by teams? Two new procedures were instituted in the 2007 season, which were applied to the Bahrain Grand Prix. According Formula1.com, “The pit lane was closed immediately upon the deployment of the safety car. No car could enter the pits for the purpose of refuelling until all cars on the track had formed up in a line behind the safety car, they passed the pit entrance, and the message "pit lane open" was given. A ten second stop/go penalty (which must be taken when the race is green again) was imposed on any driver who entered the pit lane and whose car was refuelled before the pitlane open message is given; effectively these drivers were penalised for choosing to remain in the race, rather than running out of fuel. However, any car which was in the pit entry or pit lane when the safety car was deployed would not incur a penalty.”

The procedure was replaced in the 2009 season by software that calculates where a car is on the track and a minimum laptime it should take the car to get to the pits. Any cars/drivers that enter the pits before this period would be penalised. At the start of the 2010 season, once cars were lined up behind the safety car, lapped cars were then no longer allowed to unlap themselves before the race was restarted. This rule was discarded in the 2012 season, with cars now allowed to unlap themselves before the race resumes.

The Safety Car board held out by a Marshall at a Grand Prix.
Source: F1.com 

What is the Procedure of sending out a Safety car? The safety car is on standby throughout a Grand Prix, ready to be dispatched by Race Control at a moment's notice. When the Race Director (Charlie Whiting) decides to deploy the safety car it will join the track immediately and from that point no overtaking is allowed. The safety car will then allow cars to pass it until the race leader is immediately behind it. Throughout the process, a 'Safety Car' board is also displayed to drivers as they cross the start-finish line, and the information will also be relayed over radios from the pit lane and an onboard lighting system would display a safety car warning to the driver/s .

When the Race Director orders the safety car to leave the track again, a similarly exact procedure is followed. At the start of its final lap the safety car will turn off its orange flashing lights. Competitors must still remain behind in formation, but they know that at the beginning of the next lap they will be given the go ahead to resume racing. The safety car will pull off into the pits at the end of the lap and the leading driver will then become the “safety car” as he would then control the pace until he decides to bolt off and resume racing.

The current Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG with driver Bernd Maylander.
Source: F1.com
Who supplies the Safety car? According to Formula1.com, “Since 1996 the official Formula One safety car has been supplied by Mercedes-Benz and the current model is a 571 horse power Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. On the safety cars roof there is an aerodynamically designed light bar, with LED signalling lights and two integrated TV cameras. In the cockpit two central monitors allow the safety car driver and co-driver to keep track of the race, while a ‘marshalling system’ in the dashboard’s central instrument cluster displays the cockpit safety signals being shown to the competitors. Radio systems ensure constant contact with race control.” The safety car is a spectacular piece of machinery and compared to the 1993 we have seen vast improvements in the amount of power the car has, as well as the technological improvements. So the next time you see the safety car don’t just boo it for driving slowly it has a responsibility to maintain a certain speed.

Who drove the Safety Car?
·         The first safety car driver in Formula 1 was Eppie Wietzes in 1973.
·         Max Angelelli drove the safety car at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
·         Jean Ragnotti drove the safety car at the 1995 Monaco Grand Prix.
·         Oliver Gavin drove the safety car during the 1997-1999 seasons.
·          Bernd Maylander is the current safety car driver from 2000-present.
·         Marcel Fassler briefly replaced an injured Maylander for one Grand Prix in 2001.

Bernd Maylander and Co-driver Peter Tibbets in the Formula 1 Safety Car.
Source: Googleimages.
The Federation Internationale de I’Automobile (FIA) has entrusted the task of driving the safety car to Bernd Maylander, a former successful touring-car racer. Maylander’s current co-driver is the FIA employee Peter Tibbetts. Maylander knows how to keep the pace during the safety period just high enough so that the Formula 1 cars’ tyres and brakes do not cool down too much. Maylander started his career in karting at the end of the 1980s. According to Formula1.com, “following years he progressed to Formula Ford, the Porsche Carrera Cup, the FIA GT Championship and the German DTM touring car series.” I hope that you have enjoyed this read!

          Sources:            Formula1.com
                                   Formula One: History.
                                   The 2014 FIA Sporting Regulations.