Monday, January 30, 2012

McLaren dismisses Pure engine talk rumours

LONDON: McLaren played down contacts with Formula One's planned new engine maker Pure amid lingering speculation about the Mercedes-powered team's future supplier.

"McLaren has had absolutely no contact with Pure for many months," a McLaren spokesman said on Monday.

"Moreover, the contact we did have with Pure, many months ago, was of an entirely informal nature, and was merely a courtesy gesture."

Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper reported that Pure, led by Jacques Villeneuve's former manager and team boss Craig Pollock, had been sounded out as possible replacements for Mercedes after a new V6 1.6 litre turbo engine is introduced from the start of 2014.

McLaren's former shareholders Mercedes have sold their stake in the team since buying 2009 champions Brawn GP and renaming them Mercedes GP.

The Mercedes deal allowed McLaren free engines until the end of 2012 and then a supply until at least 2015 at the going rate of around 8 million euros (6.70 million pounds) a year.

McLaren have also been linked to Honda, who powered them to titles with the late Brazilian Ayrton Senna and Frenchman Alain Prost between 1988 and 1992, but the team said in November those reports were wide of the mark.

McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale said at the time that the team, who have champions Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton as their drivers, were entirely focused on the relationship with Mercedes.

Three acquitted of CBT for approving cash rebates

SHAH ALAM: A clerk and two former clerks of Pos Malaysia Berhad (Pos Malaysia) were acquitted and discharged by the Sessions Court here of committing criminal breach of trust by approving cash rebates on cars without calling for their defence.

Judge Aslam Zainuddin made the decision on Monday after being satisfied that the prosecution failed to prove a prima facie case against Mohamad Amirul Helmi Shafie, 23, Shafful Sraffiq Shawar, 31, and Mohd Fikri Mohpot, 27.

Mohamad Amirul and Shafful Sraffiq, both of whom were former clerks with Pos Malaysia, were charged with approving a car rebate worth RM625 for a vehicle at Klang Selatan Post Office, Klang near here on Oct 31, 2008.

Mohamad Amirul also faced two other charges of approving car rebates for six vehicles worth RM3,750 at the same place and day, as well as three other car rebates worth RM1,875 at the Rantau Panjang Post Office, Klang, on Nov 14, 2008.

Mohd Fikri was charged with approving a car rebate worth RM625 at the Klang Selatan Post Office on Nov 5, 2009.

Nine prosecution witnesses were called to give their testimonies throughout the hearing.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Asma Nadia Abdul Rahman appeared for the prosecution while the three men were represented by counsels Aminuddin Mohd Ramli and Pritam Singh Deol.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Singapore tunnel protected by advanced fire-fighting technology

SINGAPORE: Motorists driving through the new Woodsville Tunnel will be protected by state-of-the-art fire-fighting technology that can unleash a deluge of water at the touch of a button.

The S$3.5mil (RM8.5mil) system can be activated from a control centre and is designed to tackle flames before they grow too big.

Sensors and cameras have been fitted to alert staff, who can then switch on the sprinklers.
Motorists using the Woodsville Tunnel road (left). — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
This is the first road tunnel in Singapore to be equipped with such fire-fighting system.

The tunnel, which opened on Saturday, will benefit motorists travelling along Upper Serangoon Road to Bendemeer Road, Serangoon Road to Upper Serangoon Road and Mac­Pherson Road to Bendemeer Road.

It is part of a larger upgrading project called the Woodsville Interchange, which has been under construction since 2008.

An opening ceremony was held on Friday.

It was attended by Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Yaacob Ibrahim and Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew.

Residents who had put up with 50 road diversions while the interchange was being upgraded said the tunnel would provide a short-cut to the Pan-Island Expressway and saved about 10 minutes of driving time. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Friday, January 27, 2012

Caterham F1 first out with 'ugly' Platypus

LONDON: Malaysian-owned Caterham emerged at the head of the pack as the first of the Formula One teams to show off their 2012 car.

If the green and yellow CT01 was unlikely to win any beauty parade, with some branding the 'platypus-nosed' car downright ugly, technical head Mike Gascoyne was sure it would not be alone.

Team principal Tony Fernandes said on Thursday that he loved it.
The CT01

"As we're the first car out it is obviously stirring up a lot of debate, but because of the 2012 regulations I think you'll probably be seeing this type of nose on most of the cars this year," Gascoyne said on the team's Facebook page.

The rules have been changed to limit the height of the nosebox to try and ensure noses are not too high.

"Our challenge is that you always want to get the chassis as high as possible to allow clean air flow to the underside of the car, and what you see on the CT01 is our solution to that," said Gascoyne after pictures appeared on the cover of F1 Racing Magazine and the team website (

Former F1 designer Gary Anderson, now a technical analyst for the BBC, said the nose's ridges and bumps were inevitable.

"The nose on the Caterham looks pretty stupid, but everyone's going to be heading in that direction with the new rules," he said.

Fernandes, who also owns Premier League Queens Park Rangers, said the main thing was for it to be quick.

"As long as it is quicker than last year's car I don't think the looks matter," he told the team website.

"I actually think it's beautiful. It's different, and different does not equal ugly - in fact I think its difference is what makes it beautiful, but then I am probably a bit biased."

Renault-powered Caterham were Team Lotus last year, and Lotus Racing in their 2010 debut season.

They have yet to score a point, like the other two 'new' teams, but they have the KERS kinetic energy recovery system for the first time this year and have set a top 10 finish as a priority.

Finland's Heikki Kovalainen and Italian Jarno Trulli are their named drivers, although there has been lingering speculation about the latter's race seat. The season starts in Australia on March 18.

Gascoyne said the new car had passed all the mandatory crash tests and would be ready for the first pre-season test in Jerez, Spain, from Feb 7.

"The design of the car has been progressing since early 2011. It's the first year of real stability for us on the technical side, and by keeping the Renault Sport F1 engine and Red Bull Technology gearbox, we know exactly what we're working with and what we can expect," he said.

"Each year so far we've effectively not only had a new design team but also a new gearbox and engine combination.

"Now, however, we have a very stable design team under our technical director Mark Smith, and this means we can take a much bigger step forward in terms of the detail of the design."

Caterham have been using the Williams wind tunnel as well as one in Italy, with aerodynamics the focus as they try and move up the pecking order from 10th place overall last year and make their point.

"This year...I am confident that we will become a danger to many of the midfield teams, and yes, I want us to achieve a point somewhere in 2012 - maybe two if we are very lucky," declared Fernandes.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Road Transport Act already provides for jail term, says Kong

PUTRAJAYA: There is no need to amend the Road Transport Act 1987 as the mandatory jail sentence for dangerous driving to the extent of causing the death of the accident victims is already provided under the act.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha in a statement said that studies, however, could be done to gauge the effectiveness of the existing law with the aim of improving it in future.

He was responding to the proposal by Road Safety Council member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye for the government to impose a mandatory jail sentence for drivers who cause road accident fatalities.

Kong said the existing provisions under the Road Transport Act were for driving offences that were categorised as serious with mandatory jail sentence provided, besides a fine.

"The offences cover reckless driving that causes death, reckless and dangerous driving, unsafe and inconsiderate driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs," he said.

Kong said Section 41 of the act, for example, stated that causing death by driving recklessly or dangerously carried a jail term of not less than two years and not more than 10 years, a fine of not less than RM5,000 and not more than RM10,000 and the offender's driving licence suspended for not less than three years.

Under Section 42, the offence of reckless and dangerous driving, but not causing death, carries a jail term of up to five years and a fine of between RM5,000 and RM15,000.

A repeated offence carries a jail term of up to 10 years, a fine of RM10,000 to RM20,000 and the offender's driving licence suspended for two years.


Europlus unit gets RM7bil contract to build West Coast Expressway

KUALA LUMPUR: West Coast Expressway Sdn Bhd, a 64.2 per cent subsidiary of Kumpulan Europlus Bhd, will undertake the proposed construction of the West Coast Expressway, estimated to cost RM7.07 billion.

To enhance the viability of the project, the government would grant a Government Support Loan (GSL) of RM2.24 billion, starting from 2013 at an interest rate of four percent per annum and an interest subsidy, of up to three per cent from commercial loans for 22 years.

In a filing to Bursa Malaysia here, Kumpulan Europlus said the terms of the GSL and the interest subsidy, would be finalised by West Coast with the Finance Ministry.

It said toll revenue in excess of an agreed traffic volume would be shared on the basis of 70:30 between the government and West Coast till full settlement of the GSL and subsequently 30:70 after the settlement.

As for land acquisition, the cost of up to RM980 million would be borne by the government.

Meanwhile, construction works for the project would be implemented by West Coast through open tender, said Kumpulan Europlus.

The project, which is a build-operate-transfer (BOT) project with a concession period of 60 years, cover a distance of 316 kilometres from Banting in Selangor to Taiping in Perak.

Of the total distance, 224km will be tolled while 92km will be toll-free.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

BMW to build cars in Brazil from 2014

SAO PAULO: BMW plans to build cars in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina from 2014.

An official decision by the company will be made shortly following the examination of 26 locations for the plant including in Sao Paulo.

Wage costs and other favourable aspects played a decisive role in the choice of Santa Catarina, an article in Automobilewoche said.

Another local source with knowledge of the situation said the plant would make three BMW models and a MINI model.

Brazil's auto industry saw sales climb 2.9% last year, less than the 4.2% growth expected by Fenabrave and the 5% growth forecast by auto maker association Anfavea, the daily O Estado de S. Paulo reported, quoting industry sources.

O Estado said Italy's Fiat remained the leading market brand in Brazil last year, selling 754,276 vehicles (22%), followed by Germany's Volkswagen with 698,404 (20.4%), the US-based General Motors with 632,259 (18.4%), Ford with 314,016 (9.2%) and France's Renault, with 194,294 (5.7%).

In terms of manufacturing, Brazil is the sixth-biggest vehicle producer in the world, sources said.


Hilux 3.0: Straddling two worlds

So, road conditions have been taking a dip over the past few years and suddenly a 4X4 is not just suited for off-road conditions, it makes sense over city streets as well.

Meet the Toyota Hilux 3.0, the answer to your daily pothole-ridden dilemma.

The marque needs no introduction as over two million satisfied owners worldwide will vouch for the Hilux.

A quick search over YouTube returns a number of videos of what the truck is capable of doing; it’s no wonder that the Hilux 3.0 is the vehicle of choice for desert duellers and timber tycoons around Sabah and Sarawak.

Over the years, though, the Hilux has evolved to be more than just a hardcore off-road machine – it is now the truck of choice for many just to go about their daily chores around the city.

I know of many drivers who have never even used the rear bed of the truck, yet prefer driving around in their Hilux than some luxury car.

This is because the Hilux is robust, the diesel engine is economical, and it drives like a car.

And we agree with these observations as it really does share quite a lot with a regular car, besides the obvious size and the truck-like vertical dashboard, that is.

Couple these points to the design of the new Hilux and you have a good-looking truck with car-like agility on tarmac and the capability to see off the most challenging of terrains.

On the move, the Hilux is silent and the suspension surprisingly comfortable.

The rear fixed axle does return the oc­casional skip and hop but that’s about it. Place a blindfolded passenger in the front seat for a cruise along the highway and it would be hard for him to figure out whether he’s in a car or a truck – such is the versatility of the Hilux.

But the similarities across the Hilux range end there because the 3.0 variant has a few more tricks up its sleeves than its lesser siblings.

Firstly, its 3.0-litre engine comes with a Variable Nozzle Turbo that improves torque and fuel consumption while producing 160hp and a massive 343Nm of torque.

Just for the record, that’s enough power for it to deal with 500kg of goods on the rear bed or to tow anything up to 1,500kg!

Inside, the 3.0 features an Optitron meter panel that enhances visibility and a multi-information display at the centre of the dash that provides you with everything from the time to the compass display.

Our test unit also came with a Bluetooth-enabled DVD player that plays MP3s and your favourite CDs.

It also comes with a built-in GPS and reverse camera, handy when you’re in the middle of the woods and can’t find your way out.

Starting at RM83,700 for the manual 2.5, and up to RM107,250 for the top-of-the-line 3.0G that we tested, the Hilux 3.0 truly offers a unique balance between power and off- and on-road versatility.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Proposal to jail reckless drivers in fatal accidents must be scrutinised

KUANTAN: Any proposal to impose the mandatory jail sentence on reckless drivers who caused deaths in road accidents must be fully scrutinised before being implemented, Internal Security and Public Order director Datuk Salleh Mat Rasid said.

He said every proposed punishment must be thoroughly studied in terms of its effectiveness in deterring others from committing the same offence.

"If imposing a mandatory jail sentence on the offender can deter others from committing the same offence, why don't we do it?" he told reporters after leading the state-level 25th Ops Sikap operation at KM25 Jalan Kuantan-Gambang here Tuesday.

He was commenting on the statement made by Road Safety Council member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, who called for a mandatory jail sentence to be imposed on reckless drivers who caused death in road accidents.

Meanwhile, Salleh said 152,356 summonses were issued on the eighth day of the 25th Ops Sikap in Pahang, which was an increase of 63%, compared with 59,065 summonses issued during the corresponding period of the previous operation.

He said 82 cases of fatal accidents and 93 deaths were also reported during the operation, with 48 cases involving motorcyclists.

"Overall, the operation has showed positive results as the number of fatal accidents declined by 94 cases from the previous operation.

"Meanwhile, the number of summonses issued this time around was higher than the previous operation because we are focusing more on enforcement to ensure all motorists adhere to the speed limit," he added.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Shiver me timbers

Greatness is subjective. Something is only good or great if you perceive it to be, but some may not agree with your perception.

And so stands the problem with being a motoring writer and being overly generous with praise for our reviews.

But some reviews really do deserve such mention.

Take this Aprilia for example – bold looks, sounds amazing, a torquey engine, and at RM57,905.40, it’s a steal.

Simply put, it’s a good bike. But it’s an Italian bike, and Italians never settle for just good, especially not with their cars or bikes.

Climb aboard the narrow saddle and you will notice that the Shiver is actually a pretty comfortable bike. The footpegs are rear set, the handle bars are wide and low; you sit with a slight forward lean.

There’s a flyscreen up front but it does a better job at trapping bugs than it does at keeping the wind out of your way. Ride at above 160kph and you will need to lean over the tank because hanging on at that speed is near impossible.

Speed is something this burly, naked middleweight bike excels at.

It’s powered by a 750cc twin-cylinder 90° V engine that’s quite loud; slam the throttle shut at high rpm and you are rewarded with a beautiful-sounding pop and burble. The engine puts down 95hp and 81Nm of torque and runs out of breath at about 8500rpm. By then you will be well over 240kph, but that’s assuming you keep the throttle wide open.

Riding the Shiver is surprisingly easy and handling is also good as well, as it weighs in at just 189kg.

And because this is an Aprilia and they are among the best chassis builders in the business, the Shiver is confident through the corners thanks to a compliant set-up that makes it predictable in turns.

You do get the occasional wobbly rear end if the roads are not even but hold your line and keep your guts in check and you will do just fine.

Like most modern bikes of this category, the Aprilia comes with electronic gadgetry that makes riding easier, or faster, depending on what you want. The Shiver features three riding modes – Sports, Touring and Rain, each with a specific throttle mapping.

In Sports mode, you pretty much get the full package.

The electronic ride-by-wire throttle gets sharper and responds to the slightest throttle inputs – the bike is now set to be ridden aggressively.

In Touring mode, the throttle is smoother and you still get maximum power which is mostly available at the upper end of the rev meter.

The throttle is considerably muted in Rain mode and necessarily so. In this mode, the bike reins in the power to maximise traction in slippery conditions.

However, the annoying thing about all these modes is switching from one mode to another because you need to get off the throttle to switch.

That means decelerating and waiting for the switch to take place and then cranking the throttle just to get back to where you were again. That’s no fun but it’s certainly not a deal-breaker.

On to the brakes then; the new wave styled rotors lend a sense of contemporariness to the Shiver. They perform as well as they look. The Aprilia branded radial-mounted calipers together with stainless steel braided lines stop the bike with considerable force and takes some getting used to or you just end up locking the rear tyre.

The clutch and brake lever, though, are placed at quite a distance; larger hands shouldn’t have a problem here but for those that do, multi-point reach adjustments should be able to fix that.

There’s always aftermarket parts to make life easier.

Overall, the Shiver is a really good buy.

You get a lot of electronics for the money and the design of the Shiver definitely deserves a second mention.

Even the funky undertail exhausts are distinctive, brilliant looking and will not have you thinking of an Akrapovic aftermarket exhaust or you risk messing up the overall design.

But how does it stack up against the competition? It’s definitely cheaper than its Italian or British competitors but it’s not as fast as, say, a Ducati Monster 795.

What it lacks in overall speed, it makes up in others ways.

The riding position is more comfortable, it doesn’t soak you in engine heat when in traffic and an Aprilia has something exotic about its brand. Maybe it’s because you don’t see many running around, or maybe it’s because this is the same brand that has won 45 World Championship titles, I can’t decide.

But I do know that at its price, it’s a very enticing prospect.

There are very few bikes out there that can offer as much value, look as good and perform as well as the Shiver 750.

It even comes with three-year free maintenance or 30,000km, whichever comes first.

If you’re looking to switch to a naked street bike, or if you’re considering getting your first superbike, then you should give the Aprilia Shiver 750 a long, hard look.

This is one bike that justifies using the words “good” and “great”.

Mitsubishi to showcase new design language in Geneva

TOKYO: Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) will for the first time pick the most demanding European market as its global launch pad for an all-new vehicle.

The Geneva Motor Show in March will see the world premiere of a strategic and innovative premium vehicle, to be retailed sequentially during 2012 – a car that will see a change in Mitsubishi’s design language for its family of cars/crossovers/SUVs.1

This unveiling will signal the start of an all-new generation of global products for Mitsubishi Motors, consistent with the ambitions set in MMC’s “Jump 2013” business plan for a greener and more global Mitsubishi.

The new design language is visualised to be an open design concept, meant to be flexible enough to suit specific vehicle requirements.

The new engineering-driven look can be understood as the new expression of Mitsubishi’s near century old tradition of technology tailored for today’s world as exemplified by the i-MiEV, the 4N1 Clean Diesel engine and Green Plastics

Car sales up as many rush to buy before CNY

PETALING JAYA: It's old wheels for new as the Chinese usher in the Year of the Dragon.

This is the time when many trade in their cars for new models, while first-time buyers among the Chinese also target their purchases in time for Chinese New Year.

Several car companies reported brisk sales, with some salesmen running out of stock due to overwhelming demand.
Sales pick up: Sales adviser Ahmad Shahrul Nazmi attending a customer at a car showroom in Bangsar Saturday.

Ecstatic car owner Kingston Chua, 34, who just inked a deal for his new Kia Forte, said it would be the “perfect Chinese New Year present”.

“I wanted it for Christmas but the timing worked out better this way. I figured 2012 is the time for me to upgrade to a new car,” said the interior designer.

Naza Group joint group executive chairman SM Nasarudin SM Nasimuddin said sales were up and there was an increase in showroom traffic due to the introduction of new models.

“Customers have been booking in advance to get their cars out in time for Chinese New Year,” he said.

He said customers were showing marked interest in the new Optima, Sportage and Sorento for Kia models while the Peugeot 308 was also a strong seller.

Proton Holdings Bhd reported that sales were up by 10%.

“The new Exora is fast becoming a preferred choice for consumers in the multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) segment while the Proton Saga has always been the best selling model due to its price and package,” a company official said.

Proton assured customers that it has sufficient stock to meet demand over the festive period.

Honda Malaysia also reported an increase in sales.

“Customers want to own a brand new car and enjoy it with their family members during the festive season,” an official said, adding that customers also preferred cars registered in 2012 as the resale value would be better.

It said its Insight Hybrid model was a best-seller among “green- minded” customers.

A UMW Toyota salesman at the SS19 showroom said there was no more stock for the Camry, Altis, Vios and Hilux models.