Road Safety in Thailand. A smokescreen exercise?

Did you know that before the Xmas-New Year holidays there was a concerted drive to ensure the safety of vehicles driven on our roads? Many of the auto and motorcycle manufacturers got behind the government sponsored project to give free safety checks and discounted parts to result in fewer un-roadworthy vehicles on our roads. This was being touted as a great way to lower the holiday road toll. However, any effect it would have had would be very minimal, at best! Read on.

What was glossed over were the statistics produced by the RSA (Road Safety Audit) in Thailand. The auditing showed that when looking at the cause of accidents, 83% were caused by reckless driving, 16% were classified as ďotherĒ and 1% of the accidents were caused by vehicle condition. In other words, all that huffing and puffing was looking at 1% of the accidents and ignoring the other 99%. Scarcely logical.

Taking that further, last year during Songkranís national road toll disgrace, 564 people were killed. Put another way, if the roadworthy drive netted 100% of the un-roadworthy cars, you have saved the lives of 5 people. The other 559 will still end up at the pearly gates. Closing the stable doors long after not the horse, but the whole herd has bolted!

Other details from the RSA show that 80% of fatalities are male, so it is not difficult to put together the profile of your average fatality statistic. Male, most likely alcohol or drugs impaired, driving or riding recklessly. If that profile isnít you, itís the profile of the person whoís going to hit you!

So what can you do to avoid becoming part of this yearís road toll? Quite frankly, forgetting the whole alcohol thing for the time being, by wearing a quality crash helmet or wearing a seat belt, your chances of survival are not just doubled, they are increased multiple-fold. Do you want to be around after Songkran? Then itís helmet or belt. Do you want your wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend to be around too? Then itís ditto for them as well.

Failings without warnings (or an ode to Lucas, the Prince of Darkness)

There are three items in your car that are prone to failure without warning. The reason is electrical, and I must admit I have always found car electrics a black art. I was reminded of this the other day when I pulled up at the local shop, got back in the car turned the key and absolutely nothing! Suspecting the battery, I got out, removed a shoe, and proceeded to belt hell out of the battery terminals. This was not in frustration and rage, but sometimes you can have (battery) terminal problems that are fixed with a good thump. No such luck in this case, and after a jumper lead start, it was high tail to the battery shop who told me that there was an internal short in the battery and it was scrap and buy a new one, only 950 baht and thank you, 50 baht change.

The second great piece of equipment waiting to fail is the ignition coil. I remember driving my race car to the grid at one meeting and turning off the engine while we waited for the parade lap to commence. We never got on the parade, it just refused to fire when it was our time to move out. Again an internal fault, and again just throw it away! And again, extreme frustration.

The third piece of electrical equipment that will fail with no warning is the fuel pump. These have always failed at the worst possible times, especially the ones on the early Miniís that lived under the boot floor and were constantly wet. In the good old days when I drove an MGTC with the sides off the bonnet and leather straps over the top, I used to carry a short iron bar which was used for beating the hell out of the fuel pump to get it to start ticking again every time after it stopped. This could be done without getting out of the driverís seat!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned there is a very famous hill climb in America, known as Pikeís Peak. The course to the top is 12.4 miles long and the first event was held in August 1916, celebrating the new road built by Spencer Penrose, who donated a 60 pound weight silver trophy, which is still the top award today. The mountain got its name from Lieutenant Zebulon Pike who was commissioned by President Jefferson to survey the mountain in 1806. I asked what did Zeb say when he got to the top? This was a bit of a trick question, because Zeb never got to the top! He sent in a report to say that it was impossible! He would be revolving in his grave if he knew about Monster Tajima!

Pikes Peak

So to this week. We are all used to being offered multi disk CD players in cars these days, but quite some time ago record players were offered as factory options. In fact it was 1956. What I want to know, is what car company offered this?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]

Good luck!

I must also make mention of some of the contestants in the Autotrivia Quiz. There is a solid nucleus of people who are pitting their brains (and web browsers) against each other, and MacAlan Thompson, out in the mulga of northern Thailand is a regular winner, while Peter Smith and Mo Bertrand in Pattaya are others to claim the prize. Thank you guys, and all the other respondents from around the world.

Australian Grand Prix this weekend to kick off the new season

The Australian GP will be held at Albert Park in Melbourne this weekend. This is where the answers will come to the questions as to whether the new qualifying format is a success and just how good are the new drivers on the grid.

Aussie race fan

Note that the Qualifying sessions will start at 2 p.m. Saturday local times this year, not at 1 p.m. Melbourne is 4 hours in front of Thailand (they are on Daylight Saving Time till the end of March), so the sessions will start here at 10 a.m. and you would be well advised to get yourself in front of the TV nice and early. The actual GPís will also start at 2 p.m. local time on the Sundays, so for us, the Aussie GP will also be 10 a.m.

The following Grand Prix is ďourĒ one - the Malaysian GP at Sepang outside Kuala Lumpur in two weeks time (23rd March). If you have never seen a GP in the flesh, this is your opportunity, otherwise join me in front of the TV. KL is one hour in front of us, so the green light should be at 1 p.m. our time - but I believe they will start the GP at 3 p.m. local time Malaysia instead of the usual 2 p.m., so that could be 2 p.m. here. Confused? Donít worry, so am I. Be like me and settle in front of the big screen at noon, just in case of any eventuality!

Whatís on at the Bira Circuit and when?

I have received many requests for what is happening on the local scene, and parallel with the improvements in the auto economy in this country, the motor racing scene is also moving. What is happening is that there are now several distinctly different groups climbing on the motor sport bandwagon, and it will be interesting to see if all this new interest will make the wagonís wheels fall off!

Here are the promoting groups and the dates given to me for their race meetings. Note, dates have been subject to change in the past and I foresee the same problems this year! Write the dates on your calendar in pencil! For what it is worth, here we go.

Thailand Grand Touring Car group (AIM Racing and covers the very professional ďConceptĒ series, a proposed pick-up series and possibly another one-make series) May 2-4, June 13-15, July 25-27, September 5-7, October 24-26, December 5-7.

Thailand Touring Car group (touring cars, proposed pick-ups, motorcycles) June 21-22, August 2-3, September 27-28, November 8-9, December 27-28.

Thailand Super Car group (touring cars and pick-ups) May 16-18, July 18-20, August 29-31, October 3-5, November 28-30.

Asian Festival of Speed group (touring cars, pick-ups, Formula BMW, Asian F3, Carrera Cup) July 18-20.

Taki Racing Club (Formula Renault) June 28-29, August 16-17, September 20-21, October 18-19, November 1-2, November 22-23, December 20-21.

Porsche Cup Challenge (Porsche GT3) April 27-30.

JAM Drag Racing, March 22, April 26, May 31, June 21, August 23, September 27, October 18, November 22, December 27.

Thailand Karting Championship, June 21-22.

Biland Challenge (250 cc Superkarts) April 13, May 11, Jun 8, July 20, August 3, September 21.

One does not need to be Einstein to see that some of these dates clash already. The drag racers are currently scheduled to run on the same day as one of the Taki Formula Renault rounds and a Thailand Touring Car round. There are months with (apparently) something on at Bira every weekend. Myself I cannot see this happening, and I certainly canít see that there will be hordes trekking to Bira every weekend. However, it is going to be interesting! The Thailand Grand Touring Car group (AIM Racing) have the runs on the board with some very professionally run meetings last year. We will just have to see what happens with the others!