San Marino Grand Prix this weekend

At last, the first of the European rounds of the Eff Wun world championship. Will Raikkonen make it three in a row? Will Mrs Schumacher’s big boy make it four mistakes in a row? San Marino will tell us.

Ferrari are threatening to bring out the F 2003GA, this year’s race car, which has been lapping in development around 0.5 to 1 second faster than the 2002 Ferrari they have been currently using. We shall see.

Fisichella and Raikkonen - will they do it again? (photo courtesy

Renault have been resurgent this year, with Alonso scoring two third places. The greatest amount of soul-searching must be happening at BMW Williams, with neither driver looking as if they can challenge McLaren or Ferrari. Patrick Head and Sir Frank will be getting worried that BMW might just take their bat and ball and go home. BAR still appear in the doldrums, but Jaguar (especially with Webber) are suddenly in the top half of the field. Sauber are certainly not looking like the fourth best challengers this year, while Jordan does appear to be improving. Minardi are still the tail-end charlies, even though Justin Wilson seems to come from last to 10th in as many laps at the beginning of the races, to then succumb to Minarditis and expire.

This GP should be televised at (I think?) 7 p.m. our time, but as always, do not take my guesstimate as gospel, and check with your local TV channel.

More on the Bangkok International Motor Show

Ever wondered just how they keep the exhibits just so sparkling? Here’s how! There is a veritable army of car cleaners looking after every stand. Here’s one of the ladies from the Honda stand, even polishing the floor around the new Honda Accord, which incidentally is a very smooth vehicle these days.

Honda Accord 2003

This Accord has really come of age in my books, great uncluttered smooth styling with no ‘add-ons’ to make it look as if they didn’t get it right first time. The new Accord also comes with a 2.4 litre engine delivering 160 bhp or an optional 3 litre engine pumping out 220 bhp, mated to 5 speed auto transmissions. All the electronic gizmo’s are on board, with traction control, ABS brakes with a brake force distribution system to decrease the braking on skidding wheels. Airbags deploy relative to the force of the collision and there are side bags as well as the front ones. The Accord range begins at 1,248,000 baht for the bottom of the range 2.4 up to 1,578,000 baht for the top of the range 3 litre. Definitely worth taking a look at if you are looking in that market price range.

BMW v12 engine

Mind you, if money is no object, then a quick sprint around the block in total electronic comfort and safety in the BMW 760 Li, complete with the 6 litre V12 may be all that is needed to get you to part with 16 million. However, if you just want the style and safety without the big engine up front, then the BMW 735 Li at little over half the price of its bigger engined brother is perhaps the car you should be considering. This model is built in the Thailand BMW plant, which is why the price is more reasonable, though you still need the deep pockets! BMW have promised me a test in one of these, and I must say I am looking forward to being a ‘star’ for a while.

Stop Press: The FIA has revised the result, taking the placings now from the previous lap before the stoppage which gives Fisichella and Jordan the win, demoting Raikkonen to 2nd and the crashed Alonso still 3rd.

What did we learn from the Brazilian Grand Prix?

The Brazilian GP was certainly memorable in the changes of fortune that occurred all race long. The winner was impossible to predict, and in fact for the first 10 minutes after the race was stopped, the Jordan crew were sure that their man, Giancarlo Fisichella, had won the event, only to find that it was McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen who had notched up his second GP win on the trot. The reason for this was that when the race was red-flagged and stopped, the placings were taken from the previous two laps before the reason for the stoppage. In this case it was the blocked track caused by the Alonso/Webber wreckage. Poor Fisichella’s Jordan caught fire in disgust at the end of the procedure!

Did I win or didn’t I? (photo courtesy

The podium was also memorable in that the third placed Alonso could not take his position as he was off being checked out after a very high speed crash following his running over the remains of Mark Webber’s destroyed Jaguar. One report I read had the Renault crew claiming that they didn’t have time to warn Alonso of the problem, yet the flag marshals were waving yellow flags, to signify great danger - slow down, and Fisichella and Raikkonen in front of Alonso did manage to thread their way through the debris - at a much slower pace!

Firman collecting Panis (photo courtesy www.

The race was also very memorable in the fact that the conditions tripped up quite a few drivers, including those who you would not have expected to get tripped up - like reigning world champion Michael Schumacher, who again did not cover himself with glory, going off to join Wilson and Verstappen’s Minardis, Button’s BAR and Montoya’s BMW Williams in the wall on the outside of the Curva Do Sol.

The conditions also claimed Webber (Jaguar) and Alonso (Renault) in their separate accidents that prematurely ended the race. Another two drivers who ended up back in the pits a little earlier than expected were Ralph Firman in the Jordan, whose front suspension broke and who then sailed backwards into the rear of Olivier Panis in the Toyota, who was up till then happily minding his own business.

The Safety Car came out for 5 appearances because of the wet conditions and bits of dead Eff Wun cars on the track. All in all, it was not so much of a race, but more of a demolition derby, the sort of thing you see on dirt tracks in the USA or Australia.

While the non-enthusiasts were thrilled with the event, I cannot say I was. The sight of cars destroying themselves in the fences are not what I go to watch. I am looking for drivers showing skill (and daring) in the thrust and parry of close quarter racing - such as shown by Raikkonen and Alonso, who never give up. To be honest, I expect these guys to keep their cars on the bitumen, and for once I have to agree with Jacques Villeneuve, who was exceptionally critical of the driving of some of the other drivers in the race. Not the finest two hours for Formula One in my book, though obviously very exciting for many people, judging by the number of emails I got after the event in Brazil. Let’s hope San Marino is better from the driving point of view, and just as exciting for the TV audiences around the world.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned another of the great Mercedes team members was Alfred Neubauer, team manager both pre and post WWII. He is credited with having invented pit signalling boards, and I asked what prompted this? The answer was Rudi Caracciola, who during one race did not realise that he was leading, and spent much of the race driving the wheels off his Mercedes, trying to catch “the leader”, who was non-existent! Thereafter, Neubauer devised signalling boards, so he could let the drivers know just what was happening in the race. By the way, there is often criticism of today’s drivers in that they appear not to be able to read their pit signal boards. Let me assure you that it is very difficult to read “your” board from all the others being hung over the wall, when you whiz by at 100 plus miles per hour.

And so to this week. Let’s get right away from F1 and let’s go to France. An American industrialist assisted France in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871 mass producing arms. In the early 1900’s the factory began producing vehicles. In 1929 they produced a 6 cylinder engine, which they used through to 1955, winning several Monte Carlo rallies on the way. What was the full name of the industrialist? Clue - there are two vehicles in his three names.

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

Good luck!

The vehicle of the show?

If I were asked to say which was the most outstanding new vehicle at the show, it would not be an open and shut case. However, in the running there has to be the WuLing. “Wot’s a WuLing?” I hear you ask. Well it’s a sort of cab with a drop-side tray behind. Incredibly versatile, you can build anything you like on the tray, a box, a high-side tray, a giraffe cage, you name it. Built in China and based on Suzuki (and Daihatsu) bits, the WuLings come as one litre petrol or diesel engined devices. The workmanship is a little on the crude side - but the price? 295,000 baht for a brand new, drive away WuLing. And may the force be with you!

WuLing Scorpion