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Oracle of Delphi

Fuel ratings a challenge

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You wouldn't believe it in a million years ...

HSV's V8 Maloo ute continues to lead the manufacturer's section of the 2009 Global Green Challenge.

Halfway through the event, the Maloo has shown a 51 per cent improvement in fuel economy which puts it ahead of the field by a country mile. With an official fuel economy figure of 15.1 litres/100km, the go-fast utility driven by former Fairfax journalist Joshua Dowling has been returning an average 7.35 litres/100km after three days of competition.

Second place is being held down by Ford's turbocharged XR6 Falcon, another heavy hitter in the normal course of events. With an official figure of 11.7 litres/100km, the Falcon has been getting 7.09 litres/100km, giving it a 39 per cent improvement. Third place is occupied by the turbo diesel Skoda Superb with 4.6 litres/100km _ and improvement of 33.3 per cent.

It is only the second time that the event which stretches 3000km between Darwin and Adelaide has been open to mainstream vehicles from the major manufacturers. A total of 17 vehicles have entered in the Eco Challenge section of this year's event which is being run in parallel with the World Solar Car Challenge.

The first event in 2007 was won by Hyundai's i30 turbo diesel hatch. Competition has been fierce this year, as car markers vie to show that their vehicles are a practical and economical alternative to conventional petrol-powered cars.

As well as petrol and diesel powered vehicles, there's also a hybrid and a couple of electric cars competing including the glamorous Tesla electric sports car. But, rather than small ultra-efficient cars like Ford's Fiesta EcoNETIC, the rules seem to favour large cars that produce their best economy in top gear on long straight roads like those found in the event.

The unlikely results could prompt a revision of the rules which have already been altered after an emergency meeting between organisers and team managers on Monday afternoon. The meeting was called after tempers flared when the Fiesta EcoNETIC was accidentally overfilled at the end of competition.

Gob-smacked Ford officials watched as fuel flowed down the side of the car and on to the ground to be later washed away. As a result team managers will now refill their own vehicles under the supervision of scrutineers to avoid a repetition. With some legs of the week-long event more than nine hours in length, a 15-minute break has been introduced for teams.

And, results will no longer reflect the actual distance travelled by vehicles, but rather the stated length of each leg which will in turn be used to calculate economy based on the amount of fuel consumed. Other major manufacturers that have entered vehicles in the event include Holden, Hyundai, Kia, Mini and Suzuki.

Holden has entered a Commodore Sportwagon with its new 3.0-litre direct injection V6. It's been getting 6.49 litres/100km.



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