Tokyo Auto Show surprise — Yamaha to produce Motiv City Cars

Yamaha Motor Corporation moved into the automotive business this afternoon in one of the shock announcements of the Tokyo Motor Show. Yamaha’s partner in the four-wheeled endeavor is none other than Gordon Murray Design.

The new four-wheeled Yamaha Motiv range of four-wheelers will be very similar to Gordon Murray’s much-vaunted T.25 and T.27 City Car designs, and the two-seater Motiv will, if it goes into production, include a range of bodies, and a range of engines, including a 25 kW electric vehicle, and a one liter, three-cylinder engine likely to produce well over 100 bhp.

With Murray finding a major manufacturer to adopt his very clever iStream production process, the stage is set for Yamaha to create a range of very affordable and high-performance micro vehicles, and for Murray’s ingenious designs to finally go mainstream. Indeed, it looks like an ideal marriage, and one which will produce a genuine competitor to the smart fortwo…

Murray…created his own design consultancy just a few short years ago, and the first announced project was the City Car, a project which demonstrates the same genius as his racing and supercars.

Now he has found a relationship with Yamaha, a company which lists among its brand values the magic ingredient of loyalty, this could just be one of those magical matches where synergy prevails and an individual of outstanding talent finally finds an ideal match.

Yamaha cherishes “drivability” and it clearly wishes to make cars with the same delightful usability characteristics as its motorcycles. In Murray, Yamaha may have found the ideal partner to move into the automotive business with.

RTFA for lots of details – including Murray’s stellar career with McLaren. I hope folks aren’t too surprised by Yamaha’s 4-wheel capabilities. I used to fly low on the way into Moab against another road warrior who had one of the Ford Taurus SHO’s with an overhead cam V8 specially built for the car by Yamaha.

Utah staties got him twice doing over 150mph. 🙂

Lewis Hamilton wins first F1 race in U.S. since 2007


Lewis Hamilton wins first F1 race in U.S. since 2007

A bold passing maneuver at the end of a long straightway slipped Lewis Hamilton past Sebastian Vettel, and the McLaren driver went on to win the U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday in the first Formula One race on American soil since 2007.

The drivers’ championship will be settled next week in Sao Paolo, Brazil, after Red Bull’s Vettel finished second and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso third.

“Wicked!” said Hamilton, who pumped his fists, waved to the crowd and danced a jig on the nose of his car after his fourth win of the season. “This is one of the best, if not the best Grand Prix, we’ve had all year.”

Vettel started the race in the pole position and led the first 41 laps before Hamilton caught him, sneaking past Vettel just before they reached the tight corner on turn No. 12 at the Circuit of the Americas. Hamilton started in the No. 2 position and pushed Vettel at every opportunity.

“It was a close fight with Lewis. He had one chance and took it. There wasn’t much between us,” Vettel said.

Vettel, the defending two-time Formula One champion, remains slightly ahead of Ferrari’s Alonso in the drivers’ championship, meaning the title will come down to the final race of the season.

Hamilton, who won the last U.S. Grand Prix, talked all week about how much he loves the United States and how badly he wanted to win in his return.

With the stars and stripes of the American flag painted on top of his helmet, Hamilton pulled off the daring move of the race with his pass. Vettel had been dominant in practice and qualifying on the new $400 million track that none of the teams had driven before this week, but couldn’t hold off the former world champion Sunday.

Kudos to Lewis Hamilton and McLaren – and special cheers for Austin, Texas which did a fabulous job not only with the technical side of the race – they made lots of friends for the world’s number one motorsport and the city of Austin with their friendliness, helpful attitude.

I watched the race on SpeedTV and just about every spectator and journalist interviewed couldn’t say enough about how well they were treated.

Sebastian Vettel is youngest-ever Formula One world champion


Vettel carrying his race trophy back to the changing room
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel is the new Formula One world champion after winning the title-deciding race in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. The German produced a peerless drive from pole position to take the checkered flag ahead of the McLaren pair of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who led the championship standings going into the final race of the season, could only manage seventh place to see his title hopes ruined.

The 23-year-old Vettel is the youngest-ever world champion in motorsport’s premier class, claiming his fifth victory of the year to take the lead in the standings for the first time in a topsy-turvy season…

“I’m a bit speechless. I don’t know what you are supposed to say in this moment,” Vettel told the official post-race press conference.

It has been an incredibly tough season, physically and mentally especially. But we have always believed in myself, my car, the team…”


Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The victory left Vettel on top of the standings with 256 points, just four clear of Alonso. Webber finished the season on 242 points with 2008 champion Hamilton on 240.

Red Bull had already clinched the constructors’ title after the penultimate race in Brazil, but a solid display from McLaren left them in second place ahead of Ferrari.

Bravo, Vettel. I’m still a McLaren fan; but, Sebastian Vettel has been knocking at the door for a while, now. His talent couldn’t help but bring him to the top.

Mercedes + Schumacher + Brawn together in F1


Click on photo for video
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher is to return to Formula One next season to drive for Mercedes.

The 40-year-old German, who retired in 2006, has agreed a three-year contract with the possibility for a further extension according to his agent Sabine Kehm and will be on the grid for the curtain-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 14.

Schumacher, who was unveiled at the team’s factory in Brackley, will join compatriot Nico Rosberg at the former Brawn GP team, who were taken over by Mercedes at the end of last season having won the constructors’ and drivers world championships.

“After a three-year break, I have all the energy again that I was lacking,” Schumacher told reporters via a teleconference call.

Schumacher, who won five of his world titles with Ferrari, attempted to make a comeback for the Italian team last year in place of the injured Felipe Massa, but a neck injury sustained in a motorcycle race thwarted his return…

“Over the summer it was too soon after the accident. Now everything has healed,” said Schumacher, who will have his first practice session with his new team on February 1.

I have decided to return to Formula One. Mercedes GP and I agreed on teaming up for the coming seasons. And to be honest, I’m already super excited by the prospect to be back in a F1 cockpit,” he added on his official Web site.

“I don’t want to deny at all that the idea of a German F1 team extremely tempts me. I guess every German driver would feel this way. And of course it plays a major role that I again can work together with Ross at Mercedes GP. Above all, however, my old hunger for racing is back — I realized that my old passion was returning. Suddenly I was on fire again,” he added.

Though I always seemed to be supporting someone else – like Mika Hakkinen – a certain level of insanity is required to deny that Schumi is the greatest driver of recent generations.

To see him driving for the Silver Arrows of Mercedes – back together with Ross Brawn as team principal – is an amazing opportunity. He is one of those consummate skills who just may be capable of beating everyone else in the world, the oldest driver in every race.

British Grand Prix/Silverstone set for next 17 years

Formula 1 will continue to take place in Britain for the next 17 years after a deal was struck between Silverstone’s owners and the sport’s chief Bernie Ecclestone…

Silverstone’s comeback took place despite rival track Donington Park being awarded the contract to host the British Grand Prix from 2010. However, that circuit lost out after failing to secure the $200 million needed to fund redevelopment plans. That had led to fears Ecclestone would look to move the race abroad…

“But 17 years gives us the ability to invest and move forward. We’ve always had the belief the British Grand Prix was an important cornerstone of Formula One but, with Bernie, you’re never quite sure.

No kidding!

Phillips described the deal as “peace in our time” between the circuit’s owners, the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC), and Ecclestone.

Pretty similar to negotiating with the last clown who promised the same.

The Iceman goes Rallying


Kimi airborne in the Finland Rally
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen will not be racing in Formula 1 next year after failing to find a drive.

The 30-year-old Finn had been trying to do a deal with McLaren but they would not offer him the salary he wanted, his manager David Robertson told BBC Sport.

“They couldn’t afford him,” Robertson said. “It wasn’t in his interests to race for what they were offering so he’s going to go rallying instead…”

Raikkonen is trying to find a drive in the world rally championship, Roberston said, although nothing had yet been sorted out.

He made his world rally debut on his home Rally Finland last August, setting competitive times before crashing out…

Asked how Raikkonen felt about the temporary end of an F1 career that started in 2001 and in which he won 18 grands prix, Robertson said: “He’s one of those guys who moves on quickly – he just said ‘now we concentrate on rallying’.

We didn’t watch much WRC this year. If Kimi is driving for someone next year – we’ll watch.

Silver Arrows return to Formula One

German car giant Mercedes has bought the Brawn Formula 1 team in a move that is likely to see Jenson Button join McLaren as Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate.

Mercedes will buy 75% of Brawn in partnership with an Abu Dhabi investment company but will continue as McLaren’s engine partner until 2015. Brawn, who won both world titles in their debut season in 2009, will be rebranded as Mercedes Grand Prix.

Nico Rosberg will be their lead driver, with Nick Heidfeld his likely partner. Fellow German Timo Glock, who drove for Toyota last season, is also a possibility.

“We are talking (with Button) and that’s why we cannot announce the driver line-up,” said Norbert Haug on Monday. “We have to accept that speculation takes place, but that’s the name of the game.”

But he added: “This will be an international team – Mercedes-Benz is a global player.

“We definitely do not want to have a pure German team. It’s an international team and we want to have the best drivers in the car.”

RTFA for all the silly season gossip. It’s the time of the year for drivers to play musical chairs. We get the added benefit of new players in terms of new teams + new money scattered here and there.

Team Lotus returning to F1


Model of the 2010 Team Lotus F1 car
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The Malaysian-funded outfit have been awarded the final grid spot and join Campos GP, Manor and US F1 as one of four new teams for 2010.

However, motorsport’s governing body says it will “consult urgently” with the 10 existing teams to expand the grid from 13 to 14 teams for 2010. “It will be consulting urgently with the existing teams regarding the introduction of an appropriate rule change to expand the grid to 28 cars in time for the first Grand Prix in 2010.”

The Lotus team will be initially based in Norfolk, though its future design, research and development, manufacturing and technical centre will be purpose built at Malaysia’s Sepang International circuit.

In its new incarnation the team is a partnership between the Malaysian Government and a consortium of Malaysian entrepreneurs.

It will be led by team principal Tony Fernandes, the founder of the Malaysian-based Tune Group, which owns the Air Asia airline.

Mike Gascoyne – who has 20 years experience in the sport after working with Jordan, Renault, Toyota, and most recently Force India – returns to F1 as the team’s technical director. Wow!

“We are not just a small new team, we have the possibilities to be a very substantial team,” Gascoyne told BBC Sport. “And the FIA recognise that, combined with the name and that we’re also a team based outside Europe…

The team has promised to announce its two drivers by October 31 2009. Right now, they have a short list of drivers and test drivers of six.

They have bought the rights to the name Team Lotus.

Thanks, WOK3