Automania

Current World F1 Championship standings

1. M Schumacher Ferrari 64

2. Raikkonen McLaren 56

3. R Schumacher Williams
F1 53

4. Montoya WilliamsF1 47

5. Barrichello Ferrari 39

6. Alonso Renault 39

7. Coulthard McLaren 29

8. Trulli Renault 13

9. Webber Jaguar 12

Montoya

With six GP’s to go, the championship is still wide open. If Michael Schumacher were to score no more points, any of the eight drivers below him are mathematically (even if not realistically) in with a chance at the title. However, the most likely scenario is a four way fight between the Schumacher brothers, Montoya and Raikkonen. One (unconfirmed) report in the European press has Michael tipping Ralf for the big one this year!


Nissan Patrol ST 4.8 Auto

In this country, full of pick-ups and now SUV’s, the BIG Muvva’s are slowly starting to appear, mainly in the grey import marketplace. This bracket includes the Toyota Land Bruiser (sorry, Cruiser) and this week’s test vehicle from Down-under, the Nissan Patrol.

Now these are not the 3 litre varieties, but damn big V8’s or V6’s. Our Antipodean correspondent John Weinthal has had a week with Nissan’s big one, and says, “it’s hard to see why it’s not Number 1.” Here are the Words from Weinthal.

“These have been eventful months in the AUD 50-70,000 four-wheel-drive game. Nissan’s primary - virtually only - opponent in the truly heavy duty business is Toyota’s LandCruiser. LandCruiser wagon has ditched six cylinder engines in favour of a 4.66 litre V8. This contrasts with Nissan’s advanced 4.76 litre twin cam six. The Nissan’s 185 kW six outguns Toyota’s V8 by 15 kW. It also has a mite more torque at 420 Nm against Toyota’s 410.

Nissan Patrol

“With just 5kg weight difference between these near 2 and a half tonne behemoths, one expects the Nissan to outrun the Toyota, as indeed it does. The Nissan is also mildly more economical, better equipped and costs around AUD 5,000 less at AUD 56,000 in five-speed auto form. The Nissan also has a sequential feature with its auto. This means near manual-gear driver control is possible when this is desirable - something still not available on the LandCruiser.

“But little of this seems to matter to the buyer. V8s rule, and the ‘Cruiser has resumed its clear sales lead. A major recent trend is the popularity of a host of new style occasional four-wheel-drive wagons. These have varying real-world off-road capabilities or objectives. Mercedes started the run with its ML, followed by BMW’s X5. More recent arrivals are the Lexus RS330 and Honda’s seven-seater MDX. “From AUD 70,000 and up, many will consider these as not illogical alternatives to similarly priced large sedans. As an aside, I should add that these pseudo off-roaders are here mainly as a result of absurd laws which mean all higher riding four-wheel-drives enjoy reduced import duties. Each of these luxury soft-off’ers - and devices like Ford’s Explorer and some Jeeps - sell mainly as two-wheel-drives overseas. Because of our regulations the lighter weight, less complex, cheaper to make, two-wheel-drive models would cost more here! Hence they are not imported. God Bless Canberra!

“The seven-seater Patrol impressed immensely back in 2001. One noted a newfound and totally un-Patrol-like refinement accompanied by a huge improvement in ride. About my only negative comment was the rather hefty manual shift. In practice this was rarely used beyond town limits due to the free-revving engine’s strong power and torque. I also couldn’t resist my usual comment about these wagon’s size and that their harsh condition capabilities are well beyond most owners’ needs or driving skills.

“The auto makes no difference on the size score. Nissan’s five-speed auto is first class. The ability to flick effortlessly up and down through the gears can make for greater control, specially when slowing at roundabouts, for instance, or when pressing on along a winding road.

“My final comment may seem weird. This was our second 60 grand Nissan in succession. However, the 350Z sports car (see last week’s column) and the Patrol share a badge; full stop. The surprise is that sensible folk would almost certainly choose the Patrol for comfort and a quiet ride over any journey of more than an hour or two. But, let’s face it, many of us are not sensible in that sense. We’d take the 350Z wouldn’t we!! There’s something about the 350Z’s utter commitment to delivering driving joy. It is also a modern classic in style; one of those cars which is severely ego-polishing to be seen in.

“This is another pair of fine Nissans - leadership contenders in their classes delivering excellent value. They have regular 3 year 100,000 km warranties. To this Nissan adds 3 year 24 hour roadside assistance. Standard gear is pretty lavish. It includes the expected power windows, mirrors and remote locking plus climate control air with front and rear outlets, cruise control and a more than decent sound system which includes both CD and tape - praise be to Nissan! It is hard to see why Patrol is not No. 1 in the big wagon stakes.”

British Grand Prix this weekend

The annual traffic jam to Silverstone for the British GP is on this weekend, which we miss, thankfully, as we can watch it on TV, provided you have the correct channel. I presume it will be 7 p.m. Thai time - but check your local feeder station.

Silverstone is another GP circuit with a long history, and was in fact the venue for the first GP in the F1 championship table in 1950, which was won by Dr Giuseppe Farina in an Alfa Romeo.

During WWII Silverstone was an RAF airfield and was used as a motor racing circuit in 1948. Ex-military airfields offered ready made road surfaces and other basic facilities such as drainage systems. The first Silverstone circuit was formed by using a combination of runways and perimeter tracks, and the circuit was chosen for special attention by the British Racing Drivers’ club because of its location being within easy reach of both London and the Midlands.

Dr Giuseppe Farina

In 1950 came a layout which was unchanged until 1974, with the main circuit (2.927 miles). The names of the corners came from local associations - Stowe from adjacent Stowe School and Becketts from a one-time chapel dedicated to St. Thomas Beckett. Even motor racing got involved in Britain’s rich history.

For 1975, a chicane was added at Woodcote Corner and the length increased to 2.932 miles but even so, in qualifying for the 1986 race, Keke Rosberg (Williams-Honda) was able to lap at a shade over 160 mph. Further modifications to the layout were completed in 1995 which left the overall length of a lap at 3.210 miles.

The race is wide open at this stage, and the Michelin advantage which has been evident should not be as marked. Bridgestone has been working very hard with Ferrari since the French GP a fortnight ago.


Slumming it. Motor Racing the hard way

While motor racing is built on countless thousands of ‘little guys’ who drag a battered trailer to race meetings, and if they are really lucky will erect a tent or lean-to next to their tow car, the Eff Wun wallahs do it in style. And the McLaren Mercedes team puts a whole new meaning to the word ‘style’.

The word “motorhome” has been applied to the huge trailers F1 teams take around the various venues, and there is certainly a need for a home from home, when you have to spend several days and nights at a race meeting. A changing room, and a place to sleep, do you need much more? Unfortunately in the rarified atmosphere of F1, you need a little more. Come into Ron Dennis’ ultimate motorhome.

This little gem took 3 months in the concept phase and another 6 months to design and then another 15 months to build it. It is not even called the motorhome, but the TCC or Team Communication Centre. Taken to the race circuit in a semi-CKD form, the site is surveyed with laser levels, then the 2 storey building is assembled on site.

The TCC has internet access, all the electronic whiz-bangery you could ever imagine, and probably hot-lines to George Dubbya and the Pope. Meals are served by a McLaren offshoot, called Absolute Taste, and are 5 or 6 star gourmet standard. These guys really know what ‘roughing it’ is all about.

When I think back on too many years of trackside soggy hamburgers and even soggier chips, eaten while lying on the dirt under an oily race car, I can now see where I went wrong. I didn’t have a Team Communication Centre. But at least I knew how to pass people of the race track. Perhaps Ron Dennis should run passing classes for David Coulthard, in the comfort of the air-conditioned TCC of course.


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked you to study the photograph. I said it was a Porsche, but I wanted to know what model, and how do you know exactly what year it is? The answer was that it was a 1973 911S, the last with the ‘long’ bonnets. The year is shown by the horn grilles which are black (previously silver), and the model by the mag wheels and the front air dam. So there!

And so to this week. And this is particularly easy. The first year of the World Championship was 1950 and the leader, going into the final race, was the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio; however, it was Farina who took the first annual title. What happened?

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

Good luck!