Vol. III No. 14 - Saturday April 3 - April 9 2004
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Automania

Bahrain GP this weekend

For the first time, the F1 GP Circus comes to Bahrain, to the all new track that was completed last month. You will probably read much tripe in the popular press about how difficult it will be for the drivers to learn this new circuit, as well as preparing the race cars for a new venue. That is absolute ‘see arr ay pee’. At that level of motor sport, the (top) drivers will have learned the circuit in six laps, and the computer boffins back in home base will already have computer generated charts to show which gear should be used where, what final drive ratio is needed for the straights and even an idea of the amount of downforce required on the various corners. All that you can say is that it will be a level playing field, but quite frankly, so are the others. The data is there for everyone to use, and the drivers are (supposed to be) the best available.

Ralf Schumacher

Much air space has been given over to the lack of cooperation between Ralf Schumacher and Montoya. Ralf is reputedly talking again to Williams and is ready to take a cut in pay! Ralf is getting desperate. He won’t be at Williams next year.

With Schumacher the elder having run away with the first two GP’s, there is much talk that F1 is boring. How can it be boring to see the best driver in action, in complete mastery of the machinery and the situation? That’s like saying you’re not going to watch Arsenal play football, because they are better than the other teams. That’s like saying you don’t want to see Tina Turner, because she’s a better entertainer than the others.

I do believe the total F1 package can be improved, to get more drivers fighting for space on the bitumen, but it will need better drivers than 50 percent of those out there at present. Take Jaguar for example. The new Klien kid looks as if he will eventually be a good driver, but we are forced to watch him go through his ‘apprenticeship’. Why? He should have done his apprenticeship in lesser formulae. F1 is supposed to be the best. As far as drivers go - it isn’t. Jaguar (FoMoCo) says they want two drivers up the front, but will only pay for one. So they get what they pay for - only one driver with a chance of scoring points, while at the same time saying they want results, and be further up the manufacturers championship. How can they do that with only one driver capable of scoring? It is time that some basic honesty and truth came back into the system. Arsenal have the best team because they have the best players. They would be nowhere with half the team picked from the Little Puddlington juniors - but that’s what F1 is serving up.

Bahrain is +3 hours on GMT and Thailand is +7 hours on GMT, so by my reckoning the race should start at around 5 p.m. our time, but please check with your local telecaster! (Ed’s note: UBC lists Race day starting at 5:30 p.m., with the race starting at 6:15 p.m. - but would advise checking again closer to the day)


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I wrote that it was for our American cousins who often complain they’ve been left out. The question was what was the first American car to win an international sports car race? I gave a clue as well - it was 2,000 km long. Of course that referred to the race, not the car! The correct answer was a Ford GT40, driven by Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby in the 1965 Daytona 2,000 km race. I saw Ken Miles driving a 7 litre Shelby Cobra in Australia, and our Down-under correspondent John Weinthal actually did a few laps in the passenger seat with Ken Miles in 1965, from memory.

So to this week. Who designed and built the 21 litre four cylinder engine for the Metallurgique? Should be easy, really!

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

Good luck!

Bangkok International Motor Show

As usual, I returned from the Motor Show with a large suitcase full of brochures. Fortunately (after repeated bleatings from me for the past few years) this year the manufacturers had English language press kits. Finally!

Honda

There were the usual run of the mill motorcars, but for me the interest came with some of the more outlandish efforts. The Maybach was there, all 80 million bahtsworth of behemoth. 6.2 metres long and with every comfort you might need. You sit in the back, the front is reserved for the chauffeur and the gofer. I have written elsewhere, but it is worth repeating - this thing has so much torque it could tow the Amari Watergate hotel through the Pratunam markets. 900 Nm of torque is just mind blowing.

Toyota PM

Another big beast, but an exciting big beast, was the Bentley Continental. 550 hp from the VW sourced W12 engine (but don’t let that put you off) and 650 Nm of torque are again prodigious figures, and 4.8 seconds to go from rest to 100 kph shows that this is no slouch of a luxury vehicle. At 20 million baht it is a veritable bargain, compared to the Maybach - and it is the sort of car you drive yourself, so again there are savings at not having to feed a chauffeur!

Mercedes Benz SLR Mclaren

Honda had the Honda Sports Concept on display. This will be the new NSX, but was still not the right balance for my money. Most of the other vehicles on the Honda stand were all the ones we have seen on the roads for around 12 months, other than their FCV (fuel cell vehicle), but more about that another week.

Bentley

Toyota had this strange beast, a PM, which I think is supposed to stand for Personal Mover. Not a successor to the VIOS I imagine, but an interesting concept, nevertheless.

Mitsubishi showed the outlandish new noses, based on the American Outlander, which will ensure that sales will plummet. The only interesting vehicle was the eco car, one that will fit in with the Thailand government concepts for the auto industry in this country.

Mitsubishi’s eco car

However, for me it was the Mercedes Benz stand that had all the attraction. From the wild outfits on their presenters to the car which was the Star of the Show. This was the 70 million baht Mercedes Benz SLR Mclaren.

Hold onto your hats while I rattle off a few performance figures - 626 hp supercharged V8 with 780 Nm of torque. 0-100 kays in 3.7 seconds and 0-200 kays in 7 seconds! Top speed is 334 kph, making it the fastest production car in the world. If you’ve got the money, put a deposit down now - there’s a two year waiting list!

More on the Motor Show next week.


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