So what did we learn from the first GP in
Well first off, we learned that the feisty Colombian, Juan
Pablo Montoya, the man who stormed out of his press conference when he was
ragged by a couple of Aussie comedians, has not learned the very first lesson in
competitive motor racing - You do not win the race at the first corner - you
only lose the race at the first corner. After a strong showing in Qualifying,
Montoya in the Williams had a poor start compared to the Renault of Alonso, so
attempted an out-braking manoeuvre, and out-braked himself, running off the
circuit and losing several places. These were places that he never made up.
Another fact we learned was that the BMW Williams team had
more than one problem with their pit stops, with the Colombian losing around
three seconds each time, compared to the dominant Ferraris.
Philippe Massa returned to Sauber after a year off as test
driver for Ferrari. The commentators all made noises before the race that Massa
had matured so much and the previously wild man was tamed. They were wrong.
Massa appeared just as undisciplined as before, retaining his title as the
We also learned that we are lumbered yet again with the two
inept telebletherers, including the incredibly annoying Steve Slater, whose
vocabulary consists mainly of the word “absolutely”, which everyone now
finds absolutely exasperating! We were also regaled with a new “expert”
talking head - none other than F1 failure Alex Yoong. I am sure he is a lovely
chap, who unfortunately was so slow that he failed to qualify several times and
was even dropped by the Minardi team mid-season. To ask Alex (who bought his
seat at Minardi), what he thinks about Michael Schumacher’s chances, is akin
to asking me what I make of the Pattaya Panthers’ chances this season. I drink
in the same pub as they do, and that’s about it. Of course, Alex may have
bought his seat on TV as well!
The Ronster and the lads from Woking in the McLarens must be
very worried as they head for the next round in Malaysia (March 21). Not only
were the McLarens off the pace, but they experienced a major engine/transmission
problem in Raikkonen’s car. Not an auspicious start to the new season.
Contrary to this, the BAR’s both finished, with Jenson
Button driving sensibly, while Takumo Sato managed to miss all the fences and
kitty litter catch areas (more by good luck than good management I reckon). The
6th place for Button would be a great stimulus for the team.
Jaguar? We didn’t learn anything we didn’t know before.
Mark Webber drove well in 6th place until his Jaguar swallowed a fur ball, or
some other excuse, and the new signing Klien, kept his nose clean, but finished
nowhere. But it was an encouraging start to the new season.
Ah well, roll on Malaysia next week!
Last week I wrote about the movie “Get Carter” starring
Michael Caine. His pursuer drove a red Jaguar Mk II. These cars came with 2.4
litre, 3.4 litre or 3.8 litre engines. However, funnily enough, the Jaguar Press
Department never let a 2.4 out to be tested by the motor noters of the day. The
question I asked was “why”? The answer was simply that the small engined
version was, to put it mildly, underpowered, and Jaguar did not want this
So to this week. Jaguar didn’t do too well at the Oz GP, so
I won’t pose another Jaguar question, but here is a motor racing one. Which
race driver used to bring along a recording of his country’s national anthem,
just in case the race organizers didn’t have one to play after he won the
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected]
‘New Generation’ Prius
The Toyota Prius has now been around for a couple of years,
but is it the end-point? Apparently not, according to our Down-under
correspondent John Weinthal, who after a week with Prius Mk II says, “The
future comes nearer”. Here are the Words from Weinthal.
years ago Toyota gave us a clear glimpse at motoring’s future. That was a car
called Prius - a five seat family sedan with both petrol and electric
powerplants. Now Prius Mk11 gives an even clearer look ahead.
“Even more technically advanced, new Prius is larger, more
powerful and more economical and emits even fewer exhaust nasties. Now a
conventional hatchback, notionally it costs less than before with an entry price
of AUD 37,000. However, for the fully equipped model one pays just over AUD
“New Prius takes the mass-production hybrid vehicle to a
new level of performance but it remains far from being a today car for most of
us. Undeniably clever, new Prius is a great technical achievement, a leap ahead
of Prius Mk 1 - but it is expensive and more than a little compromised specially
in its ride and handling.
is claimed to be the world’s most aerodynamic four door car. Advances include
electronically controlled brakes, steering, throttle and shifting between
forward and reverse. There is no conventional transmission - you just enjoy
seamless, near silent, linear progress. The driver cannot discern the switch
between electric and petrol power unless he is watching the clever on-screen
“New Prius even performs in a lively manner hitting 100kph
in under 11 seconds while Toyota claims 4.4 litres per 100kph economy. In
everyday city and highway use over nearly 1000 km we achieved what I consider a
highly impressive 5.2 average in this Camry-size car.
“Toyota is claiming success with private, corporate and
government buyers. They say government sales have increased by 374 percent over
the superseded model and now average 36 sales a month to state governments. But
I was left wondering if the boffins behind new generation Prius were concerned
for its role in the real world - one is tempted even to ponder if they actually
“How else can one explain a touch screen information system
covering everything from sound and climate control settings to fuel usage and
powertrain graphics and sat nav which is anything but user-friendly. This screen
is effectively invisible in many daylight situations! How come there is a green
reflective line from the speedo housing directly into the driver’s nighttime
sight line? Imagine 15 individual control buttons on the steering wheel none of
them identifiable at night.
“But worst of all is what happens when you leave the
bitumen. There emanates an immediate, seemingly calamitous cacophony of creaks,
shakes, rattles and bangs on any corrugated dirt. It is no exaggeration to
declare this the worst performance I can recall - even to the only instance of
scuttle shake in a closed vehicle. But uncannily, this scare is followed by a
return to that typical Toyota feel of total build quality and ruggedness when
you get back on a smooth surface.
“Prius is no doubt a ‘good thing’. For now the bulk of
sales will be to Pollies chasing Green votes and they will enthusiastically
inflict them on unsuspecting civil servants. There will be a few private buyers
and some companies which like to be seen to be ahead of the masses. When you see
a Prius why not wave - chances are that as a taxpayer you are a co-owner.
“In spite of its giant techno leap very few people will
choose Prius yet, assuming they give it a decent day and night, good roads and
poor, test drive first. If not, they have nobody but themselves to blame. They
deserve what they will get! Excellent fuel savings, a cleaner exhaust and
unending conversation prompting features will barely compensate for the demerits
compared with conventional cars, not to mention the extra outlay.”
(Thank you John, for that glimpse of what seems to be a flawed future. Dr.
Thailand motor racing calendar
The motor racing season in Thailand is well underway and here
is the ‘official’ calendar. These are motor racing events
run on the FIA approved Bira Race Circuit, just outside Pattaya
(km marker 14 on Highway 36). Unfortunately, if this year is
anything like last year, the dates and events tend to be
“subject to change without notice” like prices in the
April 24/25 Supercar Thailand Championship
May 8/9 Thailand Grand Touring Cars Round 1
June 18/19/20 Asian Festival of Speed and
Supercars Round 3
July 3/4 Thailand Grand Touring Cars Round 2
August 21/22 Thailand Grand Touring Cars
August 28/29 Supercar Thailand Championship
October 16/17 Thailand Grand Touring Cars
Nov 13/14 Supercar Thailand Championship
Nov 27/28 Thailand Grand Touring Cars Round 5
Dec 18/19 Thailand Grand Touring Cars