Your opportunity to ‘race’ in F1
in Melbourne March 7
The 2004 EffWun season kicks off in Melbourne on
March 7, and there is a strong possibility that on the Sunday morning
there will be a race put on for the public using the Minardi 2 seater
race cars. Unlike a full GP drive, you don’t have to pay millions to
get your bum in the seat, because yours is the rear seat and you
don’t get pedals or a steering wheel. There is, however, a catch
(there always is, isn’t there)! You have to be an ‘A-list’
celebrity. Now all that is really not too difficult, and in fact, if
you have one of PM Thaksin’s Thailand Elite Cards, then you are a
poofteenth of the way there.
concept of the 2 seat GP is just that - a concept, but Paul Stoddart,
el supremo at Minardi, has 10 cars waiting, painted in the colours of
the different teams and is confident that it will happen. “A lot of
questions have been asked and we’ve answered most of them,”
replied Stoddart. “Bear in mind that we’ve carried 1352 passengers
in the last four years, so we’re no strangers to this. Obviously
those that aren’t familiar with the two-seater programme have a lot
of questions and we’re trying to answer them.”
Stoddart continued during an interview on
pitpass.com saying, “This is a great opportunity for the teams’
test and reserve drivers to drive the cars. All of these guys are
eager to get a full-time F1 drive, this will be a fairly good shop
window for them. None of them are going to go out there and go totally
The idea came about last year, said Stoddart. “We
had a team owners meeting at Hockenheim and that’s when we said
we’ve got to do something about Sunday mornings, we’ve got to do
something about giving the public a bit more access and a bit more of
a show. This fulfils all of that. Anything to do with celebrity these
days is big business, it’s very popular. It would be a mini Grand
Prix,” he explained, “with a proper grid, grid girls, pre-race
interviews over the PA. The same countdown you get with a real F1 race
then away you go. It would be a ten lap race, maximum, or fifty
“The only other issue is insurance,” he admits.
“And that is a risk, it’s a dangerous sport, but so is downhill
skiing or motorcycling (especially in Thailand). Personally I think
you have to balance risk against reward. When we had the King of Spain
tearing round Barcelona with Brundle in the McLaren (2-seater) a few
years ago, if Martin had gone off and into the barriers there would
have been an uproar. Therefore we simply have to insist that the
drivers drive within themselves. A majority of the time, passengers
get to experience great lap times and a thrilling day, the key to it
all is not pulling the Gs in the corners. If you want you passengers
to last ten laps you don’t throw it through the corners.”
So are you still up for it? Well, not only must you
be A-list (perhaps buy two Elite cards to be sure) then you also have
to pass a medical. This is a full MSA (Motor Sports Association)
medical. If you are over 45 it includes a full ECG, so you’ll have
to get there early, because you’ll be getting the full ECG. Stoddart
says, “There are no exceptions, you fail - you don’t run, it’s
as simple as that.” However, don’t despair, I used to be the
Medical Officer for the Confederation of Australian Motor Sports in
Oz, so I’m sure I can whizzle you through!
Now the best news is that you don’t have to be
A-list, as they will also be letting some members of the F1 viewing
public in behind the drivers, but they will still have to pass the
medical. That will cost you a return ticket BKK-Melbourne-BKK for me,
and my accommodation and pit passes for the GP. I will supply my own
Whilst the above is a little ‘tongue in cheek’, the concept is
real and very likely to happen. For me I couldn’t give a rat’s
bottom as to whether the singing budgie Kylie Minogue or Arnie get a
passenger run on Sunday morning. I am only interested in seeing the 20
best drivers in the world going head to head on Sunday afternoon. And
I am damn sure that is not what I am going to get! F1 will return to
its previously exalted status when that happens, not by having
“races” in 2-seaters for rich and overindulged celebrities.
For all those hopefuls who are now aged around 17
and looking at getting out of karts and into ‘proper’ racing cars,
I have nothing but bad news. You have left your run a little late! 17?
You’re over the hill. Forget about the fact that Kimi Raikkonen came
second last year and Fernando Alonso in 2003 made history by becoming
the youngest driver to win a round of the Formula One World
Championship, and remains on track to become the sport’s youngest
World Champion, as does Kimi Raikkonen. For the up and coming brigade,
it’s too late.
Don’t believe me, meet John Edwards of the USA.
This month, John Edwards, from Little Rock, Arkansas, won both rounds
of the Skip Barber Formula Dodge Race Series, to become the youngest
race winner in the history of the series and the youngest driver to
win a single-seater race in the US, and possibly anywhere else. Wait
for it - John is 12. He is the youngest driver ever to compete in the
28 year history of the Skip Barber Race Series; though a handful of 15
year olds have contested the series previously.
Having taken pole position in qualifying on
Saturday morning, John led the 13 car field from flag to flag in the
30 minute race for his first car victory. He backed up his impressive
and possibly record-setting Saturday win with another victory on
Sunday, with a startling 25 second margin - in pouring rain - over
second place finisher Atle (grandfather) Gulbrandsen, 25 years old
According to reports, Edwards, a karter who stepped
up into Formula Dodge in October 2003, has shown race craft and
discipline that belies his age. The cars used in the series are
identically prepared 2 litre, wings and slicks 220 kph open wheel,
single seat Formula Dodges.
Could we see a world champ that doesn’t know how
Bangkok Motor Show looking
better than ever
Here’s a date to remember, March 26-April 4. That is the Bangkok
International Motor Show and this year has attracted even more international
attention, with autoscribblers from all over the world flying in to Bangkok for
the event. Our own down-under correspondent, John Weinthal will be there. I will
keep you informed as to what we can expect to see, but at this stage I do know
there will be a world release Benz from DaimlerChrysler. The show will be held
at BITEC which is km 1 Bangna-Trad Road. It is right at the end of the elevated
On the right tracks
One of the regular readers sent me an interesting snippet the
other day. I have no idea if it is true, because I have not traveled on a train
since 1955, but it reads well! See what you think.
the statement, “We’ve always done it that way” ring any bells? The US
standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. Now,
that’s an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used?
Because that’s the way they built them in England, and
English expatriates built the US Railroads.
Why did the English build them like that? Because the first
rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways,
and that’s the gauge they used.
Why did “they” use that gauge then? Because the people
who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building
wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel
spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would
break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that’s the
spacing of the wheel ruts.
So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the
first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads
have been used ever since.
And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the
initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their
wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for imperial Rome, they were all
alike in the matter of wheel spacing.
Therefore, the United States standard railroad gauge matches
the specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. And, bureaucracies live
So the next time you are handed a spec and told we have
always done it that way and wonder which horse’s ass came up with that, you
may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just
wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses.
Now a little twist to the story. When you see a Space Shuttle
sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the
sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. These
SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed
the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be
shipped by train from the factory to the launch site.
The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a
tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is
slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know,
is about as wide as two horses’ behinds. So, a major Space Shuttle design
feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system
was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s ass.
And you thought being a horse’s ass wasn’t important?
(Thank you Peter Cheshire!)
Last week I featured the Ford Mustang, so
asked a Mustang question - what was the Mustang model driven by
Steve McQueen in Bullitt? It was a Mustang GT 390 that he used
in the chase with the Dodge Charger. Despite all the car chase
movies that have been done since, for sheer excitement and
tension, I reckon Bullitt still tops them all. Does anyone have
a copy on VCD? I was lucky enough to be invited to the premiere
in Australia way back then and I’d love to see it again.
And so to this week. From the sublime to the
‘Gorblime’. What car was the little sister to the Zwickau
P70 of 1955-59? Clue - some lucky people have actually seen one
moving under its own power.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the
first correct answer to email automania @chiangmai-mail.com