Schumi’s 6th and Ferrari’s 5th in a row. Is he the best ever?

The Japanese GP at Suzuka showed that when they needed to, Ferrari can bring the rabbits out of the hat. To ensure Michael Schumacher’s claim to a record breaking 6th championship they needed either Schumi in 8th place or stop Raikkonen in the McLaren-Mercedes from winning. They did both, with Barichello taking line honours, while Raikkonen could only come a distant second, and after an action-packed race Michael Schumacher claimed the final point with his 8th position.

Ferrari Team

Whilst Raikkonen was still in with a chance until Barichello actually crossed the line in first place, he was always going to be the long shot. However, he did well and drove with his head. He may not have become world champ in 2003, but at least he’s not world chump like his team mate David Coulthard, who spends every off season telling anyone who will stand still long enough to listen, that this next season is HIS year. He then spends the next few GP’s showing everyone why it isn’t HIS year!

The demise of Montoya’s BMW Williams F1 and the revolving driving of Schumi Junior to finish out of the points, also ensured another Constructors Championship for Ferrari, their 5th in a row.

So is Michael Schumacher the best in the world - ever? I am afraid it is too difficult to compare the new 6 times world champ with the 5 timer, Juan Manuel Fangio of almost 50 years ago. To his credit, Michael Schumacher also says that he should not be compared with the legendary Fangio.

They were indeed different times. The circuits were much more dangerous and the cars likewise. The races took around 3 hours, compared to the hour and a half today. And, I believe, the drivers then had bigger cojones than the majority of the overpaid jockeys of today.

All that you can say is that Michael Schumacher and Ferrari are the class act of modern F1. Head and shoulders above the rest. While the books will show that Schumacher finished the year on 93 points and Raikkonen on 91, those 2 points difference do not give the real story. Schumacher had 6 wins to Raikkonen’s 1. Schumacher set 5 poles to Raikkonen’s 2, and Schumacher set 5 fastest laps during the races to Raikkonen’s 3. Raikkonen’s day may be coming, but not yet!

Jaguar XJ8 3.6. A highly significant car?

Jaguar has been having some tempestuous times in the past couple of years. ‘New’ master, Ford Motor Company has told Jaguar it has to perform, both on the race track in Eff Wun, and also in the showrooms. It appears that in both regards, the company has had mixed results.

This week, our down-under correspondent John Weinthal had his backside in one of the new, all-alloy Jaguars. Here is his report.

“The all-new Jaguar XJ8 is a revolutionary car, notwithstanding that few will recognize its ultimate significance from its appearance. To my eye at least, it looks disappointingly similar to its immediate predecessors. (I could not agree more - Dr. Iain.)

Jaguar XJ8

“That is where any disappointment ends for me, apart from rather vague speedo markings on a car which can be deceptively rapid. This could be nothing but a Jag. It reeks class. It is stylish, sumptuously furnished and eerily hushed. It can stir the emotions - a car to be bought with both heart and mind. It can deliver transport of great serenity or deceptive sportiness.

“The deeper story is more remarkable than this description, which applies equally to almost every car which has borne the Jaguar name. The XJ8 has an all-aluminium shell; not a skin like most cars, but a shell - like a crab. Its great bodily strength comes from the outside, there being no conventional frame or skeletal structure.

“The benefits are manifold. It is a lightweight for such a lavish sedan. At 1615kg it falls about midway between Commodore (Lumina in Thailand) and Ford Falcon.

“The XJ8 body is 60% stiffer and 40% lighter than its predecessor. This contributes to the substantial acceleration available from even the entry level, high-tech, quad cam, 3.55 litre V8. It will also give better than 10 litres per 100 km fuel economy - or more than 30 mpg.

“More important, the alloy shell has great torsional strength. This is a substantial factor in the car’s uncanny agility and dead flat ride, almost regardless of speed or driver indiscretion. Repairability is claimed to be simpler than for conventional cars.

“We drove the 196 kW AUD 170,000 3.5 litre model. (You can order one of these in Thailand, but be sure you have a spare 7.2 million bath left to pay for it - Dr. Iain.) This Jaguar is unusually user-friendly. While it matches or surpasses its prime competitors in virtually every area, the owner will not require a PhD in electronics or expertise in sophisticated computer games to get the best from it. The car unobtrusively delivers whatever its driver and passengers demand, to total effect. It even boasts an impressively small turning circle for easy U-turns in most suburban streets.

“Noteworthy features beyond the revolutionary build method, include a six-speed automatic transmission, full air suspension, dynamic stability control, electronic brake force distribution and switchable traction control.

“Standard gear includes everything from climate control air conditioning to automatic lights and wipers, memory seats/steering wheel and mirror positioning and steering wheel mounted buttons for the cruise control and 12 speaker sound system. This Jag also has split fold rear seats, parking distance warning, a trip computer, satellite navigation and TV.

“While the new XJ looks much like others before it, there is substantially more passenger space and the boot is a real hold-all at last.

Even though it wears 18 inch alloy wheels with 55 aspect low profile tyres it still manages to raise Jaguar’s traditional quiet, bump absorbent and flat ride standards. Only over coarse bitumen does some road noise intrude. Wind noise is absent. The engine is heard only as a distant, joyous sound under firm acceleration.

“In sum, the XJ8 is a car which embraces everything Jaguar has always stood for, updated appropriately for the 21st Century. Beyond that we have a vision of a major manufacturing breakthrough - one which is currently under investigation by almost every world manufacturer bar, I hear, General Motors.

“This is a highly significant car. It is also one which will delight all who desire some emotional involvement in their motoring above and beyond mere luxury passage.”

(Thank you John, but can somebody at Jaguar do something about the looks? Dr. Iain.)

This is a real Super Bug

Spotted this vehicle on the way to Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai the other week. Perhaps the ‘ultimate’ form of VeeDub Mania? It does not, however, retain the VW engine and transmission, but the body has been hoisted on top of a more mundane Japan-sourced front engine, rear-drive chassis. Hence the cut-outs in the front bonnet.

Also in the building was a semi-dismantled trike which featured a VW transaxle and there was a VeeDub shaped lump under a tarpaulin close by. Perhaps the engine from Super Bug going in? Whatever, two interesting vehicles from the North.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last time I asked about hydraulic four wheel brakes. In 1925, four wheel hydraulic brakes were fitted to two British marques. I wanted to know their names. They were Horstman and Triumph.

So to this week. Which car was the first to be offered with full power steering?

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

What did we learn from the Japanese GP?

Well we found out that BAR’s Jacques Villeneuve appeared as a petulant spoiled brat, taking his football and going home, after he was informed that his contract at BAR was not being extended to 2004. “In that case, I’m not going to Japan,” was his response. As if anyone cared! Takuma Sato, who has the ride for next year, did very well as a back-up for Jenson Button (who has outdriven Villeneuve this year, ending up with 17 championship points to Villeneuve’s 6, if anyone needs proof).

It was also obvious that the BMW Williams cars were very quick, with Montoya heading off into the distance after getting past Rooby baby. Now if they can only (a) keep them together and (b) keep Ralf on the island, they will be formidable next year. According to the news releases from BeeEmm, the new engine is even more powerful than this year’s.

We also saw a very rejuvenated Toyota team, trying to impress on their home turf. The fact that Schumacher the elder could not pass Da Matta’s Toyota speaks volumes for the way Toyota has come on the past two seasons.

2004 F1 Calendar

At long last, here is the ‘final’(?) F1 calendar for next year, so pencil it on the wall calendar now.

7 March Grand Prix of Australia (Melbourne)

21 March Grand Prix of Malaysia (Sepang)

4 April Grand Prix of Bahrain (Bahrain)**

25 April Grand Prix of San Marino (Imola)

9 May Grand Prix of Spain (Barcelona)

23 May Grand Prix of Monaco (Monaco)

30 May Grand Prix of Europe (Nurburgring)

13 June Grand Prix of Canada (Montreal)***

20 June Grand Prix of USA (Indianapolis)

4 July Grand Prix of Great Britain (Silverstone)

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

25 July Grand Prix of Germany (Hockenheim)

15 August Grand Prix of Hungary (Budapest)

29 August Grand Prix of Belgium (Spa- Francorchamps)

12 September Grand Prix of Italy (Monza)

26 September Grand Prix of China (Shanghai)**

10 October Grand Prix of Japan (Suzuka)

24 October Grand Prix of Brazil (Sao Paolo)

* subject to conclusion of a contract

** subject to circuit approval

*** subject to a satisfactory financial agreement with competing teams regarding the absence of tobacco sponsorship

The interesting date is June 13 with the Canadian GP. The rider, “subject to a satisfactory financial agreement with competing teams regarding the absence of tobacco sponsorship” I find really irksome. Has the great pinnacle of motor sport descended to hanging on the coat-tails of the tobacco industry? The Canadians want the GP, the circuit is liked by the drivers, but no tobacco advertising, thank you. If Ron Dennis’s tobacco sponsored team doesn’t want to cover up their West logo’s, then bad luck, as far as I am concerned. Let them stay at home. But no, they will gang up together like the bullies in the schoolyard and all take their footballs and go home, leaving the enthusiasts in Canada with nothing but a bad smell in their nostrils. I have said it before - there was F1 before tobacco sponsorship, there will be F1 after it has gone. BMW Williams are even advertising smoking cessation programmes! Well done!