Clio V6 - The Drive

After waxing eloquent about the V6 Clio a couple of weeks ago, I ended up getting my backside into a real Clio V6 race car at the Bira Circuit last weekend. Courtesy of Paul Abbott from BF Goodrich Tires and my mate Khun Prutirat of AIM Racing, there was time between races for Prutirat and I to get around the circuit.

Clio V6

The race version is all business-like with a great integrated roll cage, tying in all the suspension pick-up points, sequential gearbox and the V6 nestling in the tail. As I mentioned before, they seem as wide as they are long, and the reputation that they swap ends easily is apparently well warranted. (We didn’t by the way!)

Paul was saying that BF Goodrich Tires have two of the V6 Clio’s in Thailand for promotional purposes. He can leave one in my garage anytime he likes!

Renting a car in the UK

Having just had a couple of weeks in the UK, I thought I should let you know about using your Thai drivers license to rent a car over in Britain. I had intended renting a car in Aberdeen for nine days, and number 1 son who is working in the UK booked me a car through Hertz.

We arrived in Aberdeen and the pleasant Scottish lass with rosy cheeks at the Hertz counter asked for my drivers license. She took one look at the laminated number we all get here and said, “Oh no. I cannae take one o’ them.” “Why not?” I rejoindered, “After all, the DVLA in the UK accepts it, so why does Hertz hold itself above the licensing authority in the United Kingdom?” “I dinna ken,” was the reply, “but I cannae take thon licenses.” Hertz and I parted company at that point.

We moved to the next counter and I tentatively waved my Thai laminated cardboard, but, Hallelujah, this time this company was prepared to accept my Thai license. Step 1 out of the way, we led into Step 2. “Can I have your credit card please?” “No, I will pay cash, but you can have an imprint of my son’s credit card as your security to cover the extras.” This produced consternation in the face of the lady. “Oh no. We cannae do that. The driver has to be the same person as the credit card imprint.” I pointed out my son and I have the same surname, and they would have already been paid cash, so surely there was a way around this. Her face lit up. Yes, there was a way around the problem. She could put Number 1 son down as the main driver and I would be the second driver. Then it would be OK. There was a catch to all this, however. We would have to pay an extra seven pounds a day for the nine days!

I retrieved my laminated cardboard and we moved on to the third counter, this time the National-Alamo outlet. National I know of in Thailand. The Alamo? Well, remember the Alamo as they say. Yes they would take my Thai license. Yes they would accept Number 1 son’s credit card imprint. Yes, they would take my cash, and yes, I would be the only driver and there were no extra charges. So yes, we accepted their terms and drove away in a Vauxhall Astra 1.4 litre sedan.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked about the Old Speckled Hen beer in the UK. The beer got its name from one of the UK’s most famous motoring marques in a very roundabout way. I wanted to know the car company and how it was involved in conjuring up the name of The Old Speckled Hen beer. A look at the label on a bottle of Old Speckled Hen was the first major clue - it is octagonal, the shape that relates to the MG Car Company. It appears that MG had an old delivery van that was not painted properly, the colour was all ‘speckled’ and the van was known by the workers from the nearby brewery, as the “old speckled ‘un” and when they needed a name for a new beer it was named after the MG delivery van but became the Old Speckled Hen! Mein host at the Old Speckled Hen pub in Jomtien, Martin Smith, assures me this is correct.

I must make mention of the entries for the Morgan front suspension question, with Mog owners around the world emailing in. Unfortunately, the first in was my old mate, MacAlan Thompson in Thailand.

So to this week. With the F1 championship kind of hanging by a thread at the time of writing, who won the world championship and everyone said it was a fluke? He returned the following year and scored five wins in a row and won the championship again. Six years later he did it again in a car he built himself. Who is this driver?

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

Another new circuit filled with Turkish delight

With the push to take Eff Wun away from Europe and Canada because of the bans on tobacco signage, new circuits are springing up in the Middle East and Asia - but don’t hold your breath waiting for the Thai Grand Prix!

The latest to stick its hand up is Turkey, with details of the new Istanbul F1 circuit just released. The ground-breaking ceremony for the grandly titled Istanbul Turkey Grand Prix Circuit took place on September 10 in the presence of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and FOA President Bernie Ecclestone. The bank-breaking ceremony will be done in Bernie’s office later (or perhaps even done already!).

It is expected that the Herman Tilke designed circuit will be completed in early 2005 with the inaugural Turkish GP due to take place later that year. And your guess is as good as mine as to which circuit will be dropped to leave space for Turkey. But it will be European, believe me.

It joins a minority group of circuits in that it is run in an anti-clockwise direction, with a total length of 5.3 km. Maximum estimated speed is 321 kph and the slowest corner will be 96 kph. Spectators are catered for with a covered grandstand capacity of 75,000 and grassy seating areas for between 75,000-100,000.

FIA releases the 2004 F1 calendar

The dates and circuits to be favoured have just been released by the FIA, with few surprises. Bahrain and Shanghai are in, with Bahrain getting Brazil’s slot and Brazil becoming the last race of the season. Canada, as previously reported has been dropped and China gets in instead. Here are the dates and places for next year.

March 7 - Grand Prix of Australia (Melbourne)

March 21 - Grand Prix of Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)

April 4 *** - Grand Prix of Bahrain (Bahrain)

April 25 - Grand Prix of Europe (Nurburbring)

May 9 - Grand Prix of Spain (Barcelona)

May 23 - Grand Prix of Monaco (Monaco)

June 6 - Grand Prix of San Marino (Imola)

June 20 - Grand Prix of USA (Indianapolis)

July 4 - Grand Prix of Great Britain (Silverstone)

July 11 * - Grand Prix of France (Magny-Cours)

July 25 - Grand Prix of Germany (Hockenheim)

August 15 - Grand Prix of Hungary (Budapest)

August 29 ** - Grand Prix of Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps)

September 12 - Grand Prix of Italy (Monza)

September 26 *** - Grand Prix of China (Shanghai)

October 10 - Grand Prix of Japan (Suzuka)

October 24 - Grand Prix of Brazil (Sao Paulo)

* Provisional (subject to contract)

** Provisional (subject to tobacco law)

*** Subject to circuit approval

Better racing at Bira

The race meeting at Bira saw David Auger, one of my old compatriots from Oz, racing in the Group N (sedan) classes. David who is the ex 2 litre touring car champion has been coming up to Thailand this year and enjoys the Bira circuit.

David Auger

The decisive winner in the sedan car group was the Toyota Corolla Altis of local star Nattavud. The Toyotas are heavier than the Honda Civics and are slow off the line, so that even though he was pole-sitter, Nattavud was back in around fourth after the first corner. He then just slowly picked off the opposition, one at a time, made even easier when Grant Suppapongs (Honda) broke his suspension and had to retire.

After assuming the lead, Nattavud just kept the field a safe distance behind him, with Chayut (Honda) 2nd, Apatron (Honda) 3rd, “Pete” in the second works Toyota 4th and David Auger (Honda) 5th after Hathai in the Honda was disqualified for fuel irregularities.

In the main event, the 35 lap Sport Grand Champion class, it was again a Singha Beer benefit, with the Bhirombhakdi boys (the Singha Beer company heirs), Piti and Sant coming in 1st and 4th, and the Singha Beer entries of Chayanin and Sanchai, 2nd and 3rd.

The first event for the novices, in the Sport Challenge class was not a close affair with Kitipong running away from Chaivuth (2nd) and Opars 3rd. Kitipong was 14 seconds in front at the flag and more than a second a lap quicker than anyone else.