US GP this weekend

Well, here we are one week after Canada, and still over the other side of the world! The US GP is held at a special ‘stadium’ circuit built inside the famous ‘Brickyard’ Indy circuit and incorporates one straight and one corner.

The ‘Indy’ circuit more correctly known as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (there is also a circuit called Indianapolis Raceway Park) opened in 1909 as a 2.5-mile track paved with bricks. Each of the long straights is 3,300 feet long, the short straights are 660 feet. Each turn is 1320 feet long and banked at 9 degrees and 12 minutes. The track is now surfaced with tarmac and there have been subtle changes made to the turns to slow down cars - or to speed them up when the Indy Racing League took over the Indianapolis 500. The ‘Brickyard’ held its first 500 mile race in 1911 and the Indianapolis 500 is now the world’s oldest continuously run motor race. It is also the richest motor race and the world’s largest single day sports spectacle.

Tony George, the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was almost single-handedly responsible for bringing F1 racing back to the United States. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway had to be brought up to standard in order to host the United States Grand Prix, including a new Paddock area which would allow cars to exit from the garage directly onto Pit Lane. Also, in a major concession to the traditions of F1 racing, the 2000 USGP marked the very first time that a race had been run in reverse (clockwise) direction at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Looking back at the US GP of 2002, I note that BMW Williams drivers, Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya collided in Turn 1 in the early laps of the race, with Ralf Schumacher losing his rear wing and falling back to last place with Montoya continuing on to end up fourth. Sounds a little like the European GP of three weeks ago! They’re still at it.

I will be in Pattaya this weekend and will watch the GP at Shenanigans on Second Road in front of their big screen. I ‘think’ the time differential is such that the race will begin at midnight Thai time, but check with your local feed. I don’t want you to miss the start! Come and join me if you can.

AFOS at Bira this weekend

AFOS is the Asian Festival of Speed and visits Thailand only twice this year. The racing is for more classes than we normally see and includes the Asian Touring Car Series and the Porsche Cup.

In the Porsches, local hero Nattavud is running neck and neck in the championship with Charles Kwan from Hong Kong. Both of these drivers are very competent, skilled and polished, with numerous championships behind them in many classes. Kwan was also very successful in BMW’s in the Asian Touring Car Championships in the past, with his main opposition then being Nattavud again in the Longman Team Peugeots. Two other drivers to watch are Briton Matthew Marsh (A-Ha Racing) and another Thai, Vutthikorn, who set the fastest lap in the last round at Sepang, coming in 3rd at the flag. Another ‘local’ is a certain William E Heinecke, who is entered under his own Pizza Company label. The fastest pizza delivery in Thailand! (You owe me one, Bill!)

The Qualifying is on Saturday and racing begins on Sunday at around 9.15 and will cover local touring cars such as the Vios One Make racing and pick-ups (!) as well as the Asian Touring Car series. Two rounds of the main events will be held on the one day, so bring a picnic lunch!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I wrote that Ted Horn came 3rd two times in a world famous motor race. The car he was driving had won it twice before. I asked what was car’s correct name? The race was the Indy 500 and the car was known as the Boyle Special, but in actual fact was an 8CTF Maserati. It won in 1939 and 1940 and was leading in 1941 when a wheel collapsed, being driven on each occasion by Wilbur Shaw. Horn’s two 3rd placings were in 1946 and 1947.

So to this week. VW has a luxury vehicle called the Phaeton. Where did the name Phaeton come from?

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

Good luck!

Ford Fiesta Zetec

With the dwindling oil stocks making the headlines daily, small cars should be the go for everyone these days. The Thai government is also pushing the ‘e-car’ concept, and after reading about this small Ford, I just wish that Ford Thailand would bring these out here. Apart from everything else, the small physical size would help the dreadful traffic congestion in Thailand’s major cities.

Our Down-under correspondent John Weinthal was so impressed with the Fiesta, he entitled his report, “A touch of class”.

“Among the host of different categories of cars perhaps the most competitive is the less expensive small to medium sector. It covers everything from the Hyundai Getz and Kia Rio through Mitsubishi Lancer and Nissan Pulsar to lower-end Corolla, Ford Focus and Holden Astra.

“Size is certainly not the lone factor in this category, nor is it entirely price-based. There are Peugeots and Volkswagens, Renaults and even the odd-ball Mercedes A Class.

“But today we are looking at a new Ford which could prove a powerful competitor to the established order. The German-engineered Ford Fiesta fits my subjective category to a tee. It comes with a 1.6 litre 74kW engine across its range and costs from AUD 15,000 to 23,000. It is available as a three or five door hatch.

“Fiesta has a touch of class to its styling and a reasonable kit of standard equipment. Of course things are rarely simple in this motoring business, nor are they when defining the Fiesta.

“The range opens with an LX three-door manual for AUD 14,990 which rises to AUD 17,490 with a four-speed automatic and ABS brakes. These come as a package. The same applies to the LX five-door hatch with prices of AUD 16,000 for manual and the same three grand premium for the auto and ABS combo.

“Next up is the Zetec. Antilock brakes and a host of other gear are standard at AUD 19,000 for the manual and AUD 21,290 for the auto. The Fiesta range tops out with the still more lavish Ghia manual at AUD 21,490 and AUD 23,790 with auto.

“Zetec is available only as a three-door hatch and the Ghia as a five door. The three-door Zetec impressed immediately with both its external and internal styling and distinct look of quality.

“A comfortable driving position was easily achieved. The only mild surprise was finding a Ford with the wiper stalk on the right and indicators on the left of the steering wheel. One adjusts to this within a day or two and it is a feature common to most cars from Europe, Korea and America, including the somewhat larger and excellent Ford Focus.

“In other words, one is ‘at home’ with the Fiesta right from the start - simple, straightforward, comfortable, appealing to the eye and effective and logical in all of its controls.

“But the Fiesta stands out in the driving. It is well above class average in refinement and quietness. It has pleasingly communicative steering. The gear change is slick. The brakes are reassuring. The performance delivery is such that it always felt that, at the very least, its 74 kW were honest.

“This car can be brisk and likes to be driven in that manner. The ride is impressively bump absorbent but not at the expense of the handling which can actually encourage enthusiastic driving over any road. The Fiesta was not fazed by cracked suburban street surfaces. It was also happy over corrugated dirt.

“The base LX misses out on air/con, remote audio controls on the steering column, alloy wheels, front fog lamps and ABS brakes except as a package with the auto transmission. However, it does have remote keyless entry, power windows and mirrors and a CD player.

“The Zetec scores all of the above, but makes do with a single slot CD against the Ghia’s six stacker. The Ghia, as well as being a five door, also gains front fog lamps which, no doubt, some idiot owners will use to try to blind other road users. There is also some minor trim differentiation.

“However one looks at it, the Fiesta is a class act in its styling and driver appeal and a big advance on Kia-based Festivas of the recent past.”

(Thank you John, and as I wrote in the introduction, how I wish we had them here! Dr. Iain.)

What did we learn from the Canadian Grand Prix?

Well first off, don’t write off Michael Schumacher, just because he’s 6th on the grid. A magnificent win and his 7th at the Montreal circuit.

Secondly, we learned that Toyota and Williams both were disqualified after post-race scrutineering for discrepancies in their front brake ducts. Of course both teams tried to say that there was no performance advantage from this. Williams technical director Sam Michael told the news agency Reuters that his team would not be appealing the decision. He admitted that their brake ducts did not comply with regulations, but insisted that the discrepancy was an unintentional error. Toyota’s Mike Gascoyne said that an unforeseen error was the cause. Gascoyne was silly enough to say, “It is Toyota’s policy to always run cars that conform to all regulations. This is simply a regrettable and unforeseen issue that led to no competitive advantage.” Unfortunately, he appears to have forgotten that Toyota is the only manufacturer currently competing to have previously been found guilty of cheating and excluded for 12 months! He may have forgotten. I have not.

As a motor racer myself, let me also state quite plainly that you do not run illegal bits on your car to gain no advantage. Which shower did Williams F1 and Toyota think we came down in?

We also learned that yet again, the first corner claimed its victims. How many times do I have to say, “You don’t WIN the race at the first corner - you only LOSE the race at the first corner.” Team managers from McLaren, Jaguar and Jordan should write that out 100 times! The ‘real’ situation was apparently that rookie Glock in the Jordan, ran into Klien in the Jaguar, who rammed Coulthard who spun. Klien then climbed over the McLaren’s wheel and landed on top of team mate Mark Webber, breaking his rear suspension. So now you know!

Renault was not its usual self. Trulli (who out-qualified boy wonder Alonso again) didn’t even get one lap in, and Alonso exploded his engine later in the race while running about 5th. Sato in the BAR hand grenaded yet another Honda. They will not be pleased.