Automania

What did we learn from the British Grand Prix?

Well, first off, despite all the predictions, it did not rain! However, it was the weather forecast that prompted several of the more savvy teams to go slow in the ‘pre-qualifying’, so they could be as close as possible to first out for the important qualifying lap. Amongst these was Ferrari, who told their drivers to spin or slide off the track, so that the other teams would not cotton on to what they were doing. Jaguar made no pretence of it and just crawled over the line in pre-qualifying. Ron Dennis of McLaren Mercedes tried to make capital out of it, decrying Ferrari’s antics, but it was a storm in a teacup. If it had rained, Ferrari would have been laughing.

As it was, Ferrari were still laughing at the end, as Michael Schumacher claimed his 80th career victory, despite being fourth on the grid and passing nobody on the track. Like most people, I am heartily sick of the ‘strategy’ races. A simple fix would be to say that there should be no refuelling, or change of tyres (except in the case of a puncture). The drivers begin with a full tank, four tyres and race to the finish. Like they used to! When we saw good racing. Remember then?

We also saw again just how strong the driver’s cockpits are these days when Jarno Trulli successfully reduced several million dollars of race car into several large pieces of scrap, and then ran away. Nobody could complain at how long it took the doctor to get there. About four seconds by my clock!

Marc Gene in the second Williams BMW showed us that he is definitely a good test driver, and should stay there. He does not deserve a race seat, I’m afraid. His performances (or lack of them) will not have been missed by Sir Frank.

Now that Toyota have announced they have bought the (highly over-rated in my opinion) Ralf Schumacher, there is much gossip flying around as whether he will return to Williams for the rest of the year. Unconfirmed, at the time of writing this, is the rumour that Jaguar’s Mark Webber will join Williams for the Hungarian GP, after accepting less money to join Williams than he was offered to join Ralfie at Toyota. Webber is hungry for a win and Williams have been winners and will be again. Toyota are still a long way from the podium. I am a passionate Webber fan, since the days I watched him in an old Formula Ford at Bathurst (Australia) in the rain about a dozen years ago. A quick driver, a ‘team player’ and a damn nice bloke. Go Webber!

Next GP is the German on July 25.


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I wrote that 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. I asked how did the Lagonda get its name? The answer was that Wilbur Gunn came from the USA and began to make cars in the UK. He called them Lagonda after a tributary of the Mad River in the US.

So to this week. Take a look at the photo. This was designed by Dr. Porsche to attack the world land speed record. What auto company was the builder?

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

Good luck!

Whatever happened to Alex Yoong, ‘famous’ F1 star?

Well some of us have seen him in that awful pre-race TV show on Star Sports, where they are using Alex as their expert ‘talking head’. Since Alex wasn’t quick enough to qualify several times, his expert opinion could be doubted, I fear.

However, I have just been sent the following piece which was spotted by our Down-under correspondent John Weinthal. I quote it in its entirety:

“Former Malaysian F1 driver Alex Yoong has returned to motor racing. He is now a regular competitor in Australia’s SuperCar V8 Konica Cup Challenge; a junior league for aspirants to the famed Ford Falcon Vs Holden Commodore first division.

“Konica Cuppers compete in earlier model Falcon and Commodore V8s which are no longer eligible for Australia’s most popular race category.

“In his latest outing at Queensland Raceway today Mr Yoong qualified 20th in a field of 27 cars. He was classified 18th among the 23 cars which were running at the end of 33 laps.

“Post race pit pundits suggested that Mr Yoong’s next motor sport ambition may be rallying, following several test runs through the sand traps at this near-Brisbane circuit.”

(Thanks for that John. I am pleased to see that the Konica Cup is giving young Alex an opportunity to showcase his talents. It seems that he hasn’t lost his speed either! Dr. Iain.)


Citroen C5 Hdi Auto Wagon

Last year we reviewed the Citroen C5, which at a smidgen over 2 million baht here, still came across as fair value for a very good car. Since then, our Down-under correspondent John Weinthal has spent a week with the diesel engined station wagon version, the C5 Hdi Break (Wagon) and wrote “What a way to traverse Australia!”

Here are the Words from Weinthal. “One of last year’s star drives was French maker Citroen’s luxury C5 sedan with a velvet smooth 3 litre V6 engine and more standard equipment and worthwhile engineering novelty than almost anything else on our roads. That was enough to make me look forward to this week’s driving in the C5 diesel engined estate car, although historically I am no big fan of diesel cars.

“But there were two immediate reasons to at least give this one a fair trial. First, the 2 litre auto-only diesel wagon costs around AUD 10,000 less than the V6 sedan at AUD 48,390 yet it incorporates even more technology and the same comprehensive standard equipment list. This price includes a limited edition AUD 900 option pack comprising classy leather pews, radar reversing sensors and fold-back external mirrors.

“This is a good looking large wagon - not far short of the Australian standard General Motors Holden Commodore or Ford Falcon - but ahead of the similarly priced Holden Calais or Ford Fairmont in comfort and safety gear and worthwhile engineering ingenuity.

“Trick gear includes hydractive hydro-pneumatic self-leveling suspension which can be adjusted to four different ride heights. The C5 recognizes rough roads and raises itself automatically for greater ground clearance for traversing some of our worst bush tracks. At freeway speeds it rides lower for better stability and fuel economy.

“A button at the rear lowers the C5 to the ground to make loading heavy items or hitching a boat or caravan easier and safer, or raises it to loading dock heights. When loading is complete, the C5 Estate automatically restores normal drive height and self-leveling.

“Standard equipment runs the full luxury car gamut including automatic wipers and headlamps, six airbags, dual-level climate control air, one of the most accurate cruise controls I have encountered, a host of useful storage spaces, parking sensors and emergency application of the ABS brakes. When it rains the windows close automatically.

“The load area has a reversible floor mat, with deep pile carpet on one side and a washable, waterproof high grip surface on the other. It has luggage tie down points, a load cover, cargo net and a retractable net to keep pets and luggage in the rear. Maximum payload is a whopping 600kg - about the same as a Holden V8 pick-up!

“The C5 also exudes build quality reminiscent of the best from Germany.

“And so to the road. To get to the downside first, there is no avoiding the fact that around town this auto-only wagon is not particularly pleasant due to the loud diesel rattle at idle and low speeds and its - let’s be kind - tardy stroll from standstill. I can’t remember the last time I drove a passenger vehicle which took more than 15 seconds to reach 100kph. So, for me at least, this would be unacceptable as a city car especially as fuel consumption is nothing special under the hard usage demanded to stay with the traffic flow. But there end the demerits.

“Hit the open road - either highway or byway - and the C5 diesel wagon becomes sheer joy. The engine and standard issue 5-speed tiptronic auto transmission match brilliantly. The ride is wonderful. The diesel knock becomes a pleasant distant thrum and fuel economy is absolutely mind-blowing for such a large, capable, luxury load bearer.

“Fuel saving and range between refills are probably the most significant attractions of diesel. On these scores the C5 delivers handsomely. One frequently notes between 4.5 and 6 litres per 100 kays on the facia-top infocentre. Even on test we easily achieved just over 1000 km with fuel to spare in the 68 litre tank. Citroen’s claim of up to 1500 km on a tankful would take some real effort I reckon, but 1200 km between refills should be easy enough over extended country cruising.

“What a way to tour Australia - low fuel costs, vast luggage capacity, full luxury kit, super supple ride, hushed progress and ease of mind when road conditions deteriorate.

“At under AUD 50,000 this is bargain luxury for those whose majority motoring is far from the city grind.”

(Thank you John. In Thailand, and even around the better roads of Bangkok, the sluggishness would not be such a problem. The traffic flow - or lack of it - means that you cannot even reach 100 kph most days. Outside the capital, the C5, in any of its guises sounds ideal, other than perhaps ease of servicing. Dr. Iain.)


Problems at the top of F1

Outgoing FIA president Max Mosley launched a scathing attack on the F1 team bosses saying they are the reason he decided to resign a year early.

As reported in this column last week, Mosley 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 to things and then go away and change their minds completely.”

Some in the F1 group have asked him to reconsider but he made it clear that he would not be going back on his decision. “I am not an F1 team principal so I don’t change my mind every few minutes,” he said, to emphasize his point further.