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  • Honda wins big on Sunday – Verstappen and Red Bull Racing headline victories in F1, MotoGP and IndyCar

    If you’re a fan of Honda in motorsports, then yesterday would have been a day to remember. The Japanese automotive giant secured victories in three of its biggest race series, headlined by Max Verstappen’s scintillating win at the 2021 Formula 1 French Grand Prix.

    The young Dutchman took pole for Red Bull Racing at Circuit Paul Ricard on Saturday, but in the windy conditions and on less-than-grippy tarmac he squandered that advantage by running wide at the first chicane – allowing title rival Lewis Hamilton to sail past. However, Verstappen pitted earlier and used the powerful undercut to retake the lead from the seven-time champion.

    The Honda-engined team then engineered a gutsy two-stop strategy by bringing Verstappen into the pits again, forcing Mercedes-AMG Petronas onto a compromised one-stop race. On newer tyres, Verstappen scythed through the resultant gap to the leaders, first dispatching Valtteri Bottas on lap 44 and then making a last-gasp pass on the Briton on the penultimate lap, securing an extra point for the fastest lap in the process.

    Further back, new teammate Sergio Perez ran long on his first stint, then used his fresher tyres to make light work of passing Bottas to take the final podium position. The strong result extended Verstappen’s championship lead over Hamilton to 12 points (131 points vs 119) and Red Bull’s over Mercedes to 37 points (215 points vs 178). AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly finished seventh to cap off a successful weekend for the Bulls.

    It’s easy to forget that Honda is also the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, and in MotoGP, Marc Márquez took home an emotional victory for the Repsol Honda team at the German Grand Prix. The Spaniard won his first race since breaking his arm in an accident at last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, which resulted in nine-month break from the sport.

    Starting fifth, the still-recovering Márquez made a fantastic start, going up to second at the first corner and securing the lead by the end of the first lap. There he stayed despite changing conditions at the Sachsenring, holding off KTM’s Miguel Olivera to take the chequered flag just six races on from his Jerez mishap.

    It’s not just in Europe where Honda reigned supreme – over in the United States, another Spaniard, Alex Palou, won the IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Road America for Chip Ganassi Racing. Like his compatriot, Palou started fifth on the outside of the front row; he gradually made his way up to second until a problem for the Chevrolet-engined Team Penske car of Josef Newgarden handed him the lead with two laps to go.

    Behind him, Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta finished second, gifting Honda its second 1-2 finish in 2021. In fact, the carmaker dominated the upper end of the results, clinching all but one of the top eight finishes. Palou’s lead in the driver’s championship now stands at 23 points over Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward.

    Honda also finished strongly in domestic single-seater racing, with Dandelion Racing’s Nirei Fukuzumi taking the win ahead of TCS Nakajima Racing’s Toshiki Oyu at Round 4 of Super Formula in Sportsland Sugo.

    GALLERY: Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing at the 2021 Formula 1 French Grand Prix

    GALLERY: Marc Márquez, Repsol Honda at the 2021 MotoGP German Grand Prix
    GALLERY: Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing at the 2021 IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Road America

  • Daihatsu plans to add 10 new models for emerging markets by 2025, continue tailoring cars for Malaysia

    Daihatsu is stepping up efforts to produce cars tailored to Southeast Asian nations such as Malaysia and Indonesia as it attempts to ramp up its presence in emerging markets. A perfect example is the Perodua Ativa, which is based on the Daihatsu Rocky.

    While the SUV’s overall structure is the same as that of the Japanese model, quite a few aspects of the Malaysian model – which debuted in March – have been reworked to meet the needs of local drivers, as the Nikkei reports.

    These were gleaned from surveys as well as from running trials with evaluation units, according to the man who headed the development of the Rocky. “As Malaysia has lots of expressways, cars often run at high speed. We had to figure out how to deal with that,” said Nobuhiko Ono, deputy chief officer at Daihatsu’s research and development management division.

    Ono studied feedback on local drivers’ needs and decided to improve the braking response of the vehicle, concluding that drivers would feel less secure if the brakes responded softly when the pedal was pressed.

    Another unique feature is the inclusion of dedicated lock/unlock buttons, which is not available on the Rocky. Mounted on the centre console next to the handbrake lever, these allow the person in the passenger seat to lock the doors if the driver needs to step out of the car, preventing anyone from jumping in and attempting to carjack the vehicle. “The feature was added based on a suggestion from local staffers who tested trial models,” Ono said.

    Changes were also made to the suspension, in the case of the Ativa as well as the Rocky that was introduced in Indonesia at the end of April. For the Indonesian Rocky, Daihatsu used the same market survey and trial production routines as in Malaysia, and the suspension was reworked to perform well on rough roads, taking into account that many of the country’s roads are still unpaved.

    The new models got off to strong starts, with sales reaching 4,000 to 5,000 units per month in Malaysia alone. Indonesian production of the model will also be exported to 50 other emerging markets, including in Southeast Asia and Latin America, in Toyota Raize form.

    Ono also revealed how he turned down the design team’s repeated call for a bigger body when development of the SUV began sometime in 2017. Stressing on the automaker’s expertise in minicars, Ono believed that it should use its experience in that field to differentiate its products from those of other manufacturers.

    As a result, the Rocky measures in at just under 1.7 metres wide and four metres long, making the SUV only slightly larger than the maximum for mini-vehicles under Japanese standards (the Ativa is slightly longer, wider and also taller, the former as a result of its bumpers, and the latter due to its Malaysian-specific suspension).

    “Women and the elderly avoid SUVs because they think it is hard to maneouvre them in tight spots. We thought small SUVs could appeal to them,” Ono said. He was proved right. The Rocky won orders for 10,500 units – roughly five times more than expected – in the first month after its release in Japan in November 2019.

    The automaker is hoping to continue that success by accelerating its efforts to develop more vehicles for emerging markets, planning to add 10-odd models by 2025. This will be aided by its fast, low-cost production method, working with its Daihatsu New Global Architecture (DNGA) modular compact car platform and a concept of “small doubles as big,” which has helped cut development time and cost by 30% and allowed models to be deployed in faster fashion, as in the case of the Rocky/Ativa.

    While the brand is aiming to make as much progress as possible before vehicle electrification takes hold in emerging countries, the report adds that Daihatsu has plans to utilise its DNGA platform – which is connected, autonomous, shared and electric (CASE) ready – for the development of electrified models. Timelines for these were however not revealed, although it was previously stated the company was planning to introduce a hybrid version of the Rocky later this year.


  • Volkswagen gets the green light to build ID.3 in China

    SAIC Volkswagen, the joint venture company between Volkswagen Group and SAIC Motor, has been given the approval to build the fully electric ID.3 hatchback in China. The ministry that oversees the China automotive industry officially gave the JV the green light earlier this week.

    The Volkswagen ID.3 is the company’s first mass production electric car, measuring 4,267 mm long, 1,168 mm wide, 1,574 mm tall and has a wheelbase of 2,768 mm. It will be assembled at SAIC-VW’s manufacturing facility in Anting, Shanghai.

    This will be the third ID model to be built in China, after the ID.4 crossover and ID.6 SUV. The ID.4 went on sale in the country earlier this year, shortly after making its debut there last November. The China-only ID.6 is also being built at the Anting and Foshan plants, and is expected to go on sale later this year.

    When Volkswagen first announced the construction of the plant in 2018, it said the 610,000-square metre facility will be home to over 1,400 Industry 4.0-standard robots, with a planned annual capacity of 300,000 vehicles. All Volkswagen ID models are built on the Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB) platform.

    GALLERY: Volkswagen ID.3 HatchGALLERY: Volkswagen ID.3 at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show

  • Carsome eyes US listing via SPAC – RM8.3b valuation would make used car platform Malaysia’s first unicorn

    What a meteoric rise it has been for Carsome. Founded in 2015, the Malaysian online used car platform has grown by leaps and bounds, expanded regionally into ASEAN, and is now looking at a US listing.

    The deal, if it happens, would make Carsome Malaysia’s first unicorn. Not the mythical creature, but unicorn is what the business world calls startups valued at over US$1 billion (RM4.14 billion). According to people with knowledge of the matter, reported by Bloomberg, Carsome is currently working with advisers and is seeking a valuation of about US$2 billion (RM8.3 billion) in a US listing.

    The listing could be via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) or a conventional initial public offering (IPO), the sources said. The company could go public as early as the end of 2021, they added.

    Heard of SPAC in the news lately? That was probably Grab’s planned US$40 billion (RM165.9 billion) SPAC merger with Altimeter Growth Corp, a blank cheque company set up with the sole purpose of acquiring a business. Announced in April, the regional super app’s SPAC deal is set to complete in Q4 this year, a slight delay due to a review of its financials. For those who are unaware, while Grab was born in Malaysia, it’s now based in Singapore.

    The report’s sources say that Carsome is conducting a pre-IPO funding round that aims to raise about US$150 million (RM622 million). It’s not the only used car platform seeking fast growth though – Singapore-based rival Carro recent raised US$360 million (RM1.49 billion) to fund expansion in Thailand and Indonesia, with the ultimate goal of a US listing.

    Also not alone is Carsome’s SPAC merger plans. Grab aside, online companies in the region such as Indonesia’s and Singapore’s PropertyGuru are also planning to list in the US through mergers with blank cheque firms.

    The used car market is booming not only in Malaysia, but globally as well, and Carsome is riding the wave. The company, which bills itself as Southeast Asia’s largest integrated car e-commerce platform, has of late expanded to Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.

    As of April this year, Carsome reported annualised transactions of 100,000 cars totalling more than US$700 million (RM2.9 billion) in value. Penetration rate of the Southeast Asian used car market is almost 2%. “We are very encouraged by our growth. With greater ambition, we are on track to surpass the US$1 billion (RM4.14 billion) revenue mark by the end of 2021,” co-founder and group CEO Eric Cheng (right in the pic above, with fellow co-founder Teoh Jiun Ee) said then.

    It was only in August 2020 that Carsome launched its B2C online platform and flagship store, finally getting into the game of retailing used cars themselves instead of just passing on the cars to used car dealers. Its B2C business has a few unique selling points; among them are a 175-point inspection, one-year warranty and even a five-day money-back guarantee. More on Carsome’s B2C business here.

  • Lynk & Co 09 fully revealed – Volvo XC90-based three-row SUV with upmarket design, 14 Bose speakers

    In April, Lynk & Co released the first official image of the 09, a luxury SUV based on the Volvo XC90‘s Scalable Premium Architecture (SPA). Geely’s erstwhile youth-oriented brand has now revealed its rather upmarket flagship in full, corroborating the leaked photos that made their way to the internet.

    As you can see, the 09 certainly looks imposing and features a slightly different design language than we’ve come to expect from Lynk & Co. The two-tier headlight design has been retained (now with matrix LED technology with no less than 84 diodes), but there’s now a much larger and more upright grille with vertical slats, plus a full-width chrome strip that ties in the opening and the main lamp units.

    The corner air intakes are also larger and give the car a more aggressive look. As with all Lynk & Co models, the 09 features a window accent strip (here finished in chrome) that runs from the base of the A-pillars to the rear spoiler, along with blacked-out D-pillars for a “floating roof” look.

    Here, however, these design cues are complemented by Range Rover-style fake vents in the front doors, as well as subtle chrome strips that connect the front bumper, side sills and rear bumper. Speaking of which, the rear has a fairly sporty diffuser design with quad tailpipes, plus Y-shaped full-width taillights that Lynk & Co said are inspired by the wings of a gull.

    The classy design continues on the inside, where the 09 sports a full-width air vent design, a tall central tunnel with a stubby gear selector and large displays for both infotainment and instrumentation. Lynk & Co says that the 09 has no less than six screens (including the head-up display) that are all connected, although it’s a bit of a stretch to count the touch-sensitive climate controls as separate displays.

    Also making an appearance are cushy-looking front seats with large integrated headrests and an almost granite-like decor on the dashboard and door cards. At the rear, you’ll find side window sunshades and individual second-row seats which, together with the twin headrests visible in the rear end shot, suggests that the 09 will be available with at least six seats.

    Lynk & Co hasn’t revealed much about the car but has confirmed that it will be offered with a built-in air freshener (similar to Mercedes-Benz’s Air Balance system) and a 14-speaker Bose surround system. The company has previously claimed that the SPA platform provides a favourable dash-to-axle ratio for premium proportions, high crash protection, more powerful engines and low noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).

    Notably, the architecture gives Lynk & Co access to Volvo’s 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine and eight-speed Aisin automatic gearbox, available in mild hybrid, full hybrid and plug-in hybrid variations. Power outputs range from 252 PS to 431 PS, with another 177 PS coming from rear electric motors.

    If all this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same configuration found in other SPA models, including Volvo’s Recharge T8 plug-in hybrids and the Polestar 1 with its 608 PS three-motor plug-in hybrid system. Lynk & Co is also boasting a range of semi-autonomous driving and parking features already fitted to Volvo vehicles, as well as support for over-the-air updates. Lynk & Co is promising more details to come on July 9.

  • TechArt GTStreet R – Porsche 911 Turbo S with 800 PS

    TechArt has announced the latest GTStreet R based on the 992 Porsche 911, with production limited to just 87 units worldwide. This is the 20th anniversary of the GTStreet R line-up, and the 87-run is a nod to the year the tuning firm was formed – 1987.

    The mission with this GTStreet R is to make the perfect – those being the 911 Turbo and 911 Turbo S – even better. For 73,000 euros (RM360k), owners of either Turbo models can have their cars fitted with a whole lot of carbon-fibre, including the bonnet and dual-tiered GT wing at the back.

    TechArt says the wing increases downforce on the rear axle by four folds and 45% less lift on the front axle when measured against the standard 911 at 140 km/h. Thanks to larger intakes, air throughput has also been increased. The company also made it a point to reveal that the factory-fitted active aero components still work as intended.

    Carbon-fibre is also used to make the wheel arch extensions (wider by 30 mm up front), fender fins, side intakes, roof spoiler and rear diffuser. Other exterior parts that are included in the price are TechArt sports exhaust system and Formula VI forged wheels (20-inch front, 21-inch rear). All these have been developed and manufactured according to the company’s high standards, and the aero gains have been validated in a wind tunnel.

    Those who cannot get enough of carbon-fibre will be pleased to learn that the composite material is also extensively used in the cabin. You’ll find it on the centre tunnel, dashboard trim, door inserts and gearstick, all of which are complemented nicely with Alcantara upholstery. The front seats feature perforations that make up the number 87. The upcoming Clubsport pack adds performance seats and roll bar.

    In terms of performance, TechArt has two power upgrades, starting with the TA092/T1.1 Techtronic management. This raises power by 60 PS and 100 Nm, all for a total of 710 PS and 900 Nm. This is a plug-and-play offering that does not interfere with the factory engine management software.

    Want more power? Simply opt for the TA092/T2.1 kit. This comes with new and improved turbochargers to raise output to 800 PS and 950 Nm, and at the same time unlocks a new top speed of 350 km/h. TechArt also offers sport springs that lower the ride height by 25 mm, whereas the coilver kit allows a range of reduction from 15 mm to 25 mm. A fully adjustable suspension is in the works, and will be introduced as part of the Clubsport package.

  • Dacia reveals new logo and branding for future models

    Romanian automaker Dacia has announced a modernised brand identity with a new logo, which will feature on its vehicles from the second half of next year. Dealerships will adopt the new corporate identity sooner in early 2022, and the brand’s communication channels have already begun phasing in the new brand identity beginning this month.

    The new logo, which is a connected “D” and “C,” was first seen on the Bigster Concept that was revealed as part of the company’s roadmap for the future in January. Dacia says the new look “gives the impression of robustness and stability,” adding that it reflects the “brand’s simplistic and artful mindset.”

    The company goes on to say that the simple design is deliberate as a reminder that this is a brand that “focuses on the essentials.” Meanwhile, the khaki-green colour scheme points towards the brand’s link to nature as well as its vehicles’ off-road capabilities.

    Secondary colours that will also be used include three earthy hues – dark khaki, terracotta and sand – along with bright orange and green, the latter two for a more “tech” feel. Dacia has added electrified models to its range, with cars like the Spring Electric already on sale in certain markets.

  • 2022 Toyota GR Supra “The Pitch” is many ads in one

    Not all car commercials are enjoyable to watch, but Toyota’s new spot for the 2022 GR Supra is certainly worth five minutes of your time. Titled “The Pitch,” it has plenty of exciting scenes while taking jabs at the conversative nature of the industry.

    The premise of the commercial is a young, creative team pitching their ideas for a new ad featuring the Supra to a pair of older businesspeople. While the former has plenty of ideas that involve aggressive driving, the older team wants to keep things a little more reserved.

    This back and forth continues throughout the spot, with a lively idea being played out before it is reeled back in and a new one presents itself. From drifting on public roads to showcasing the Supra’s navigation system and doing a burnout “without smoke and with VSC on so the car doesn’t lose traction,” what happens is pretty funny.

    The spot also features competition drift cars driven by Fredric Aasbø and Ken Gushi, both competing in Formula Drift, with the former being a pizza delivery boy too. There are other ideas being tossed around by the Gazoo Racing team, so take some time from your day to see Toyota have some fun with its commercial for the Supra.

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  • Oli Bayliss’ maiden ASBK win – like father, like son

    Malaysian super bike fans will recall the name Troy Bayliss, three-time World Superbike (WSBK) Championship winner with 52 victories. What made the previous weekend special is 17-year old Oliver “Oli” Bayliss taking his maiden victory in the Australian Superbikes championship (ASBK).

    Like father, like son and the younger Bayliss, popularly known as “Beatle” to his friends, was astride the DesmoSport Ducati Team Ducati Panigale V4R as he crossed the finish line at Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin, Northern Territory. Oli’s victory came in the re-started third race of the weekend, which saw racers Matt Walter and Corey Turner go down.

    At the re-start, Oli held on tight to ASBK championship leader Wayne Maxwell, making his move with two laps left in the shortened eight lap race. Now with 87 points in the ASBK rider’s championship standing, Oli is 45 points away from being top rider, currently held by Maxwell of Boost Mobile Racing, also campaigning a Panigale V4R.

    Oli, who started racing at ASBK level in 2016, made his debut race at the Winton Motor Raceway in the Australian Supersport 300 Championship. Meanwhile, the elder Bayliss is recovering from a fractured vertebra and spinal injuries suffered last May in a cycling accident.

    Photos courtesy of Half Light Photographic.

  • BMW M unveils two modified M4 Competition for the Red Bull Driftbrothers – each with 1,050 hp, 1,300 Nm!

    BMW M has announced two new M4 Competition models for drifting brothers Elias and Johannes Hountondji, ahead of the 2021 Drift Masters European Championship. The Driftbrothers will be taking their new weapon to the grid for the first time when the season kicks off on July 10 at Greinbach, Austria.

    The cars were built in collaboration with BMW M and the Red Bull Driftbrothers, the latter of which was responsible for tuning the straight-six engine. It now makes 1,050 hp and 1,300 Nm of torque, easily doubling the stock 510 PS, 650 Nm output of the S58B30T0 3.0 litre twin-turbo mill.

    BMW M CEO Markus Flasch said: “I am deeply impressed with what the Red Bull Driftbrothers have managed to coax out of our vehicles and wish both of them every success for the start of the season. The result also shows how good a basis the BMW M4 Competition provides for motorsport use.”

    “From the start of its development, we had designed the production vehicle to also form the basis for our GT icon, the BMW M4 GT3, which we officially presented during the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring almost two weeks ago,” Flasch added. The M4 GT3 can be purchased by privateer teams for around RM2 million.

    Commenting on the capability of the S58 engine, Elias Hountondji said: “It is by nature a genuine racing engine in a road-legal car, so to speak. When you look at each component of this engine, it is clear that many engineers have put a lot of thought into creating an optimal design.” Not much details have been released on what the brothers did with the engine, but a lot of emphasis was put on cooling.

    BMW M’s role in this is to optimise the M4 Competition’s aerodynamics for drifting. The kidney grille has been redesigned to optimise supply of cool air to the engine, and there’s also a new front splitter, tailgate spoiler, side coverings for the rear diffuser, and side sills. These were manufactured exclusively at BMW M Prototype Construction. A bonnet air scoop can be added in the future if the need arises.

    The Red Bull Driftbrothers have been participating in the Drift Masters European Championship since 2018, and they will take on more than 40 other top drivers from Europe, the USA and the Middle East. The Hountondji pair are ranked among the top drivers in the drifting scene, and have won the 2017 King of Europe champion and vice champion.

    “It was a great honour for us to collaborate with experts from the design and prototype construction departments. With their help we were able to implement our ideas perfectly,” Johannes Hountondji said.


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Last Updated 17 Jun 2021