British GP this weekend

Another back to back series of weekends. Last week the French GP and this week the British at the famous Silverstone circuit. This was actually the venue for the first World Championship F1 Grand Prix and was held on May 13, 1950 with the British Royal family in attendance.

After the “race” in France last week, there still seems to be no stopping the red express. Ferrari has the best driver and the best strategist. End of story and goodnight nurse! Let’s hope the British GP will be better. The start will be at 7 p.m. (I believe) but as always, check your local TV feed.

The history of the circuit is one of continuing development. During WW2 Silverstone was a bomber station and it was pressed into service as a motor racing circuit in 1948. The three prewar British circuits, Brooklands, Donington Park and Crystal Palace were all out of commission and ex-military airfields offered ready-made road surfaces, other basic facilities such as drainage systems, and they were usually a long way from densely populated areas.

In 1950 came a layout which was unchanged for many years. An additional corner, Bridge Bend, was added just before Woodcote for 1987, and the chicane was removed. This altered the length to 2.969 miles. A major revision of the layout was undertaken for 1991 which tamed the awesomely fast Maggotts curve and Stowe and Club corner and added a sequence of bends prior to Woodcote. These revisions increased the length to 3.247 miles and remained in force until 1995 when further details were made which decreased the overall length of a lap by a few yards leaving it at 3.210 miles.

There ain’t no substitute for cubic inches

With the family Mira being slightly off-colour, I took it to Martin my mechanical mate at CMS. While I was there, I took a look at one of the large American iron representatives that was there for its service too. The one aspect that really stood out (apart from the sheer physical size of the late 60s, early 70s American muscle cars) was the size of the brakes in these monsters. Piddly little front discs and drums at the rear. No wonder these cars failed in long distance production car racing, as they always ended up running out of brakes.

I also was left a magazine by Jerry Coffey, one of the local ‘classic’ car club members, which had an article on the top ten muscle cars of the era. These were the 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 LS6 (450 BHP off the showroom floor), the 1970-71 Plymouth Hemi Barracuda, 1970 Buick GSX, the 1968 and a half Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet, the 1970 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 W-30, 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge, 1973 Pontiac 455 Super Duty TransAm, 1969 Chev Camaro Z/28, the 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T and the 1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator. Of course there were many others, such as the Dodge Super Bee and the 7 litre Shelby Cobra Mustangs, to mention just a couple.

All of these beasts could run a 1/4 mile in the 13 second bracket and smoke the tyres across any intersection in the traffic light GP’s. Unfortunately, like the dinosaur era, the muscle car era ended too. For the cars, this happened when the price of fuel went too high. For the dinosaurs it might have been when the females of the species got a permanent large headache!

If you are interested in these big block vehicles, the Cruisers is a club in Pattaya devoted to the American cars of that era. You can contact them through Martin at CMS on 01 621 7105.

What’s on at Bira this weekend?

The Asian Festival of Speed (AFOS) is back, but no Porsches - this time it is the Formula BMW single seaters. This series is an attempt to produce a world-wide ‘feeder formula’ for open wheel racing cars, and the Asian series is closely contested. There may even be some passing, as opposed to Eff Wun! Racing kicks off from about 10 a.m. on Sunday July 11.

Fun at Bira Circuit last weekend

One of the TGTC meetings was held at Bira last weekend. To be perfectly honest, the main events were not the best, and the small engined touring cars had very few entries. However, as a crowd entertainment, the organizers had put on the Tiger Challenge. This was a sort of two at a time drag race down the main straight, with a U-turn at the end and drag race back again.

It attracted a huge field, and I am sure many taxi motorcycle vests were discarded before each run! Some of the riders were adopting rather novel ways of slowing down for the U-turn - with both feet on the ground at the same time. How they applied the rear brake I do not know, but perhaps Valentino Rossi should study this.

However, the best was yet to come! This was the Nano-bike event, using those scaled down GP racer creations, with electric motors. These were ridden by the most determined bunch of scaled down racers I have ever seen. Young kids with big helmets and totally concentrated. They were fabulous!

The other good event was the VW race. Yes, der Kraut Vagons at full noise. They had over 30 entries, and while the ones at the front went quite hard, some of the wobblers at the back could have been timed with sundial and calendar. Many of the engines had obviously been put together by skilled ex-British motorcycle mechanics, because they leaked oil worse than the Exxon Valdez. A couple of the VeeDubs also showed that if you pay attention to the exhaust system, you do end up with a ‘real’ engine note, rather than the sewing machine noises they normally make!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I said to take a look at this photo. It was taken in 1959. The driver was Tony Brooksand I asked what was the make of the car? The clue was that the company is still producing road going vehicles today.

The answer was Aston Martin, not Ferrari as many of you presumed, though I must say it did look like a Ferrari, but a 1953/4 model, not a ’59. The Aston was way too late with this front engined GP car.

And so to this week. Popular myth has it that Colin Chapman called his first car Lotus after his girlfriend who he later married. This is bollocks, as his wife was called Hazel! However, the folklore behind the British Lagonda is more interesting, and relates to a Wilbur Gunn. So for this week’s question, how did the Lagonda get its name?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email automania

Good luck!

Women in Motorsport

Christabel Carlisle

Anyone read this book? Released last year it has details on many of the women who have competed in motor racing over the years, and there have been some who were spectacularly successful. Christabel Carlisle, who was one of the world’s greatest Mini racers, is featured. Apparently now Lady Christabel Watson, at 50 years of age she climbed Mount Gondogora in the Himalayas and celebrated her 60th anniversary by walking from one end of the UK to the other! It would have been quicker by Mini!

Max Mosley gives up (in disgust)

The top job in the FIA (the world body that controls all automotive sport) has been held by Max Mosley for the past 13 years. His term in office was supposed to run till October 2005, but he calling it quits 12 months early. There are many reasons for this, but the prime one appears to be the lack of cooperation from the F1 team owners, eventually leading him to say enough. Explaining why he’d made the decision to quit the FIA president said, “I’ve got to the point now where I no longer find it interesting or satisfying to sit in long meetings where people often agree things and then go away and change their minds completely.” This is a direct reference to what has been happening in meetings between the FIA and F1 team principals. Mosley continued, “Sometimes one says to oneself isn’t it actually probably more fun to sit on the beach with an interesting book than to sit here having these discussions?”

Max Mosley

Having personally held a position with the FIA’s Australian arm, I have to agree with Max Mosley and the discussion forums. We all know that we have to get a better spectacle from F1 racing. This needs removal of the wings so that they can ‘race’ each other with becoming unstable, smaller brakes so that the braking area is longer, to allow more chances of overtaking, and no more electronic aids such as traction control. Mosley knows this, we know it, but the team bosses don’t want to know, while they cream their personal millions from the sport.

So what did we learn from the French GP?

Well the first thing we learned was that Michael Schumacher and Ross Brawn make a better team than Fernando Alonso and Flavio Briatore, even though Flav pulls better women that Ross does.

I also thought that the ‘race’ was dead-set boring (even though my old mate the ebullient Louis rang me afterwards to say he enjoyed it). If it’s ‘strategy’ we go to see, then the team managers may as well post their strategies on the notice board and the public can vote for the best one, which is then declared the winner. This way we don’t have to wear the cars out and put people’s lives in danger. That is definitely NOT motor SPORT! If Rooby Baby hadn’t passed Trulli, there wasn’t one spark of ‘racing’ anywhere. We know that MS can string together high speed laps, but we (the public) want to see him pass something, other than wind. As a spectacle, the French GP didn’t raise as much interest as a flash of a can-can dancer’s knickers.

The only other thing we learned from the French GP was that the cars were reliable for once - other than poor old Sato, who hand-grenaded yet another Honda engine. Fortunately, the engine blow-ups don’t come out of his pay! They’re only several million dollars each.