31st October 2009

Inside the Global Green Challenge

We’ve been on the road for almost 2500km and are now nearing the end of what’s been an interesting eco challenge.

About now (actually, it would have been about two days ago!) the organisers of the Global Green Challenge will be wondering how come they came up with a set of rules that looks like it will hand victory to one of the nation’s great fire-breathing, gas guzzlers, the 6.2-litre HSV Maloo ute.

The idea of the car that gets the best percentage improvement over its official Australian government fuel consumption figures winning a competition for eco cars is just a little ludicrous.
The Maloo, with an official combined cycle consumption of 15.1 litres/100km, was always going to beat this numbers running between Darwin and Adelaide at a loping 75km/h.

Full marks to Josh Dowling and HSV for seeing the silliness of the rules and going after the win.
Others though, have other aims. With a Ford Fiesta ECOnetic, we’re chasing the crown of the most economical car in the event, and so far we’re on target.

The scenery and other tourists delight are hard to find on the 685km stretch of Stuart Highway between Alice Springs to Coober Pedy.

It’s a mainly desolate and flat landscape, with just a few road houses to break the journey.

There is little other sign of wild life too, beyond the occasional hawk picking over road-kill beyond its use by date.

Even the bugs have given the area a wide berth – the windscreen on our ECOnetic turbo diesel arrived in the dusty opal town at dusk with nary a sign of a suicidal insect on the glass. The temperature gauge showed a comfortable 29 degrees C.

You’d think that boredom among crews in the Global Green Challenge production and alternative fuel vehicles could have been an issue, but the task of extracting the best fuel consumption figures demands serious concentration. And some sacrifices.

While some crews look with envy at the Kia Sorento crews, who have been provided with cool vests to help in the searing heat, we prefer to tough it out.

As my co-driver Carolyn Barry puts it, “we’re hard core!” No cool vests, no air cond, no fans. They’re for softies.

And yes, there has been some polite discussion on fart etiquette in such a close and closed environment. Fortunately the need has not arisen to enact the decision we’ve made on this matter.

Now, the Global Green Challenge folk are now taking in the delights of Coober Pedy, partly built underground to keep inhabitants and visitors cool.

Our Mini rivals have switched some drivers. Drive’s Jaedene Hudson and Le Mans winner Vern Schuppan have returned to home cities and consistent food and air conditioning.

In their place in one Mini D are the ABC’s Will Hagon and Australian Conservation Foundation’s Gail Broadbent, both appreciating the cooler weather on their watch.

But I’m confident that another committed economy driving performance this morning from magazine editor Carolyn Barry (a handy 54kg body weight contributor to our excellent power-to-weight figures) has set our Fiesta up for another strong result.

Revised figures issued at the halfway point in Alice Springs show the Fiesta ECOnetic 1.6 – to go on sale in Australia in December – is consuming fuel more slowly than any car in the event; 3.18L/100km.

Next best are the three Minis – all hovering between 3.5 and 3.8L/100km. The three-cylinder petrol Suzuki Alto follows with a three day average of 4.0L/100km.

Another impressive result has come so far from the biggish turbo diesel Skoda Superb, which three up and with a swag of luggage, is consuming fuel at the thrifty rate of just 4.6L/100km.

There’s also a battle royal between the sibling Koreans, the Kia Sorento and the Hyundai Santa Fe, the former doing 5.17L/100 in the first half of the event to lead the medium SUV section.

Port Augusta is our Wednesday evening destination.

Peter McKay

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31st October 2009

F1: Hamilton fastest in Abu Dhabi practice

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton has topped the free practice sessions ahead of the inaugural Abu Dhabi GP.

Duelling it out with newly crowed world champion, Jenson Button, Hamilton eventually proved fastest ahead of qualifying on Saturday with team-mate Heikki Kovalainen coming in second fastest.

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31st October 2009

Around the tracks…30 October 2009

A weekly wrap of motorsport from around the world.

Hayden is kart champ
Hayden McBride is the 2009 Australian CIK Karting champion after finishing runner-up at the final round in Queensland last weekend. Scheduled to be contested at the Ipswich circuit, the final day of competition was moved to Toowoomba after the track was deemed unsafe.

Loeb does it again
A last-race win gave Sebastien Loeb his sixth World Rally Championship title. Loeb started the Rally of Great Britain a point behind Mikko Hirvonen, but a start-to-finish win gave Loeb and his Citroen co-driver, Daniel Elenas, their seventh rally win for the year and a one-point advantage in the championship. Loeb said: “It’s never easy to compare one title with another, but I think this is the best one in terms of the sporting battle we had.”

Ambrose’s tums pain
Fading brakes and a tangle with Matt Kenseth ended Marcos Ambrose’s hopes of a strong result in the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia on Monday. Ambrose finished 27th in the the 500-lap race on the smaller half-mile oval. It was an up and down weekend for the former V8 Supercar racer. He was eighth fastest in the sole practice session, but qualified a lowly 34th. Ambrose is 17th in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points with four races to go.

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31st October 2009

Odour-eating upholstery

Get ready with the rude jokes. Japanese car maker Mitsubishi has come up with odour-eating upholstery, providing a new take on the term zero emissions.

Not only does the PX-MIEV plug-in electric hybrid’s engine reduce harmful greenhouse gases, body odour and gases produced by passengers are broken down by the car’s high-tech upholstery.   Mitsubishi calls its concept the “cocochi-interior” and is showcasing it at the Tokyo Motor Show.

In its typically polite Japanese way, the company says the seats use special upholstery that “deactivates allergens, breaks down volatile organic compounds and offensive odours”.  The seats also aircondition your backside.

If that’s not enough, the car’s glass shuts out harmful UV-A radiation to protect skin from sunburn and ageing.  And to keep the family happy on long journeys and reduce driver fatigue the PX’s cabin has a negative-ion aroma humidifier and oxygen enricher.

Driver assistance does not stop at odour-eating seats or the humidifier, either.   If the driver becomes drowsy, the PX emits not only visual and audible warnings but a distinctive aroma will waft through the airconditioning system to wake them up.

 Not only does the PX clear the air but its four-cylinder petrol engine, when combined with electric power, returns a fuel economy figure of less than 3.0litres/100km.

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31st October 2009

Quote Of The Day: Don’t Hate The Playa, Hate The Game Edition

I’m not going to tell you incentives are going away. They’re part of the game, but they can be better managed than they have been in the past

GM Sales maven Susan Docherty in the WSJ.


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31st October 2009

John O’Quinn – lawyer-extraordinaire and car enthusiast – tragically dies in car crash

We all remember John O’Quinn for two reasons. One, he was one of the most feared – and revered – lawyers in the land, having once successfully secured $17.3 billion in a tobacco settlement.

The other thing that we were fond about John was the fact that he was an avid car enthusiast. Actually, even ‘enthusiast’ sounds like an understatement. His list of cars ran long and among those that were prominent and high-profile included JFK’s Continental limos, Franklin Roosevelt’s Packard Limo, a Ford Escort that once belonged to Pope John Paul II, and of course, a Batmobile.

Sadly, the auto world lost a great man today after O’Quinn was killed as a result of crashing his Suburban yesterday. It was a life taken prematurely and the irony of it all was that he was killed by the very things he loved most in this world.

Rest in Peace, John O’Quinn.

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