No Grand Prix this weekend!

This is the spot in the calendar where the drivers and teams are supposed to take a holiday, making it three weeks between the events. Remember that it was only one week between the European GP at Nurburgring and the French GP at Magny Cours to allow for this break. The next GP for your diary is the Hungarian on the 24th of this month.

So what did we learn from the German Grand Prix?

Firstly, the first corner crash. How many times have I told new drivers the following maxim: “You do not WIN the race at the first corner - you only LOSE the race at the first corner!” The correct answer is once only. Do it wrong once and you are no longer in the team. What can I now say about Messrs Ralfie Baby, Rooby Baby and Little Kimi? The stewards decided Ralfie was at fault because he moved to the left, squeezing Rubens and Kimi. Ralfie also admitted that he did not look at where the other drivers were around him at the time. Tunnel vision again? So the stewards slapped his wrist and will send him ten spots down the grid after qualifying for the Hungarian GP. Will this make Ralfie mend his ways, or will it just bring the next crash ten spots down the grid, but leave the front runners safe? We shall see.

Ralf Schumacher

However, I do not believe it was all Ralfie’s fault. Going back to the first corner maxim, as they approached the braking area, if Rubens had admitted to himself that he had cocked up the start and had lifted the throttle to avoid contact with Ralf (and then Kimi), he would have lost one position only - to Kimi, as he was already behind Ralf on the grid. Instead, he kept his right clog in it, hoping that Providence would come and clear the track for him, and a total of five cars ended up not making it to the chequered flag. (Maxim number 2: “To finish first, first you have to finish!”)

Secondly we learned that with the puncture suffered by Michael Schumacher whilst in a secure second place, we now know the championship is still wide open. Four races to go and all of a sudden Montoya is right up there. However, the BMW side of BMW Williams F1, Mario Theissen is still talking up Ralf’s chances. “Ralf still has a chance, when you see what happened to Michael today you can see how fast the situation can change. There are four races left. No one can be written off.” However, Ralf does not share his optimism. “The championship is over,” he said. With four races remaining, Ralf is 18 points behind his brother and twelve points behind Montoya. There are 40 points up for grabs, but Ralf has thrown his toys out of the pram (again). That is why I do not think Ralf will make world champion.

Finally, that move of Michael Schumacher’s around Trulli, using the run-off area. Inspired? Or was it just that Michael knew he could do it, because it was Michael who designed the run-off area? Which he did!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what clever race car manufacturer decided that instead of a tube frame chassis, he would be able to build a lighter machine by using monocoque construction. This was done using plywood and sheet metal to build the monocoque, and the cars were very aerodynamic, looking like a rear facing aerofoil. The question was, what was this car, the first monocoque in racing? The answer was Gabriel Voisin with his Grand Prix car named after himself, the Voisin. Unfortunately it was not a success and it was not until 1962 when Colin Chapman renewed the interest in this type of construction, did the monocoques then become universal.

So to this week. Who remembers the ‘Hurgs’ (HRG’s)? These quaint little sportscars even won their class at Le Mans in 1939. The owner of the company that produced HRG’s was a chap by the name of H.R. Godfrey, but his initials (HRG) did not give birth to the initials HRG used for the cars. Where did the initials HRG come from? For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email automania
Good luck!

Cheats never/always prosper

As soon as mankind was given any sets of rules, mankind began working out how to circumvent them. This is not a new phenomenon, a result of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, but has been evident from time immemorial. “Adam, don’t eat that apple,” and look what happened after that! I could almost rest my case right here and now and leave you with 7/10ths of a blank page to read, but as you can see - I didn’t.

Wide Sierra

Motor sport has its fair share of rules and regulations, and there are people who have made a nice fat living out of inaugurating and applying those rules. Successive presidents of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA for short) have done very nicely thank you, none of whom appeared to have starved to death in the reputedly unpaid position.

Since the objective in 99% of motorsport is to get to the finish before the rest of the turkeys, this means that we have a contest, with the first regulation being that “The motor car that is leading at the end of the race is declared the winner.”

Many years ago, the rule-makers saw that to keep the contests interesting you needed to keep the competing vehicles together, so the concept of “classes” was introduced, and the regulations flowed on from there. These days there are more classes than there are go-go dancers in all of Thailand, and the regulations for these take up several libraries. These days, there are also legions of racers reading the regulations and working out their ways around them. Legally or otherwise.

There are also countless thousands of examples of cheating, or bending the rules, only found out when the perpetrator has been found out. Like the Japanese rally team that ran oversize tricky turbochargers, or when a certain front running Eff Wun team was found to be running jungle juice instead of the correct race fuel.

But these are ham fisted attempts at getting an advantage. There have been much better examples of the fine art of fudging. From across the pond, there was the NASCAR stock car that was later found to be a 9/10ths scaled down replica. At 9/10ths the frontal area it slipped through the air just so much better. It looked perfectly standard, until someone put the rule over the car! In Australia, a Ford Sierra was found to be wider than all the others, to give that certain edge in cornering.

Returning to the US of A, where the fuel tanks were limited in size in a certain class, one competitor managed to go for many laps further than the rest of the field on the same sized tank of fuel. The tank was taken out and measured - perfectly legal! However, the several tens of metres of very large bore “fuel lines” running from the rear and around the interior of the vehicle, on the way to the engine, were later discovered and considered against the spirit of the regulations!

However, some of the more inventive applications of the human brain to circumvent regulations have come via the motorcycle racers. These are guys with a very healthy disrespect for all rules, regulations and policemen. You have to admire them.

The following examples are true, but names have been withheld to protect the guilty. The first involved an illegal cylinder head. One rider, suspected of running a very modified cylinder head on a production bike, was approached by the scrutineers, wishing to measure and examine said cylinder head. “No worries,” said the biker, “give us a couple of minutes and we’ll bring it down to you.” Now the powers that be weren’t that silly, so they said they’d wait. “No worries,” was the rejoinder again.

Much spanner twisting ensued and the head was lifted off. “I’ll just give it a clean for you,” said the mechanic, dropping it into a large drum of murky petrol and giving it a shake and swirl. Lifting it out, it was dried and handed over. The head was checked for capacity, port sizes, the works. It was totally legal. And of course it was. The one they were given was the ‘other’ standard cylinder head which had been sitting waiting in the bottom of the large drum of oily petrol!

These are still but crude and clumsy efforts at getting around the regs, so keep reading, the following fudge is one of the best. In Production Bike racing, one of the biggest problems in cornering is the exhaust pipes grounding, particularly noticeable on some famous Italian machines. In Australia there was a six hour race for production bikes and on this particular year, one Italian bike team appeared to have the problem licked. All the others were scraping away, while this one team did not scrape once in qualifying. Of course this produced the attention of the scrutineers who noticed the exhaust headers were different from the others. “How come?” “These are a optional headers” was the reply, but the scrutineers insisted on inspection.

The offending items looked like factory bits, complete with the part number stamped into the metal, but nobody in the officials had ever heard of a production option being available. It was then suggested that they go to the closest dealer and inquire there.

The scrutineers went to the dealer, straight to the parts counter and being crafty, asked to see the parts book. There it was in black and white - Optional Header, part number XYZ. The disbelieving scrutineers then asked if the dealer had any of these items. The answer was in the affirmative and two headers were produced, exactly identical with the ones on the bike at the circuit. There was no option open to the officials, other than to pass the bike in question, which they did.

What they did not know, was that there were only four of these “factory” headers in the world, all hand made and hand stamped. Two on the race bike and two at the dealership. The page in the parts book was a phoney too, all done as an elaborate and well set up fraud!

And cheats never prosper? Think again!