The Good Oil: Alfa drives rings around Porsche + more
Take that Porsche! Alfa Romeo has trounced the German carmaker’s lap time around the infamous Nordschleife, claiming a production sedan record of 7:32. This is a terrifyingly fast time.
It’s the latest uppercut in a stoush between Porsche and Alfa Romeo around which manufacturer has the fastest passenger-friendly production car. Well, when timed around a specific track in Germany anyway.
Initially the Italian manufacturer claimed a 7:39 lap time of the Nordschleife in its forthcoming Giulia Quadrifoglio (QV).
Then Porsche announced it had bettered this time in its new Panamera Turbo, claiming one second better with a 7:38.
To settle the score, Alfa Romeo sent its test driver — the Euro-tastically named Fabio France — back to the “Green Hell”, but this time with an eight-speed auto version of its would-be BMW M3-eater. The change in gearbox proved a winner, with the auto ‘boxed-QV posting a much quicker 7:32 time, versus the manual version.
Alfa Romeo has also posted a YouTube video of France manhandling the shapely sedan around the twists and turns of the German track.
Forget the Alfa 4C; all of a sudden we can’t wait to see the Giulia, especially in 375kW/600Nm QV guise, when it arrives here sometime next year.
Move over, Bernie, it’s Mr Nice Guy
Picture / Reuters
Finally F1’s octogenarian overlord Bernie Ecclestone has snatched his dark cape around himself and disappeared in a swirl of acrid smoke, the faint hint of an evil cackle and the ring of a cash register on the wind.
But who is this John Malone fella, who has apparently been handed the reins (well, one stirrup at least)? And what are his plans for the world’s premier form of sponsorship deals paired with free additional motor racing?
Turns out Malone’s Liberty Media is enormous; nearly as enormous as F1’s parent company, Delta Topco.
According to a statement from Liberty Media, the company initially takes an 18.7 per cent stake in Formula 1, with the balance to be acquired next year. Liberty Media will reportedly pay NZ$5.5b for the series, although it must also swallow the US$3.6b debt the F1 series now carries. Ouch.
The entire deal also has to be approved by the FIA.
Controlled by spring chicken Malone (he’s 75), Liberty Media dabbles in radio stations, cable TV channels and the QVC broadcast network and also owns the Atlanta Braves baseball franchise. Malone backed Charter Communications’ takeover of Time Warner Cable and owns Virgin Media in the UK.
Liberty Media has been expanding into Europe over the past couple of years, and also extending its sports coverage portfolio.
It would seem Formula 1 neatly takes care of two aims.
As to any specific plans Malone has for the sport, nothing has bubbled to the surface yet, although Ecclestone is expected to remain at the controls as chief executive for three years.
Perhaps an American owner will generate significant enough interest in the series Stateside to mean the Austin, Texas round of the championship no longer teeters on the brink of insolvency from one season to the next.
Initial reports suggest Malone could be a nice guy. So there’s a monumental change for a start.
11 gears with three clutches
Reports suggest Honda has lodged a patent with the Japanese patent office for an 11-speed, triple-clutch gearbox design.
Clearly, 11 ratios are designed to offer micro-degrees of the right gear for the right driving scenario. But why a third clutch when dual-clutch gearboxes are already designed to provide supreme smoothness, priming the next cog while the previous cog is already engaged?
If the patent documents (leaked to Jalopnik) are to be believed, it looks like Honda might be using a third clutch to skip gears, meaning that shift times would be rapidly increased and there would be little in the way of a loss of power during shift manoeuvres.
Yes, we know what you’re thinking: why bother with this type of development when continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) already exist? And Honda even has these in its wider model range?
Well, while 11 gears sound like overkill on paper, imagine an auto box with the seamless shift ability of a CVT, but actual cogs to spin? A performance gearbox without the awful nerve-shredding whine of a CVT being rung out on a challenging road would be an interesting development.
1940 YEAR Oldsmobile launched the “hydro-matic” fully automatic gearbox
20 PER CENT Of cars in Europe feature automatic gearboxes (as of 2014)
1934 YEAR Manufacturers REO and GM introduced semi-automatic gearboxes
2014 YEAR Jeep debuts world’s first nine-speed automatic gearbox