Hungarian GP this weekend

After the three week summer break for F1, they are all back for the remaining rounds. Stand-out driver is still Michael Schumacher, who has won all but one of the rounds. It would be a travesty of point scoring manipulations if he does not win his seventh world championship. He deserves it.

Jenson Button

Another driver who deserves some recognition for what he has been doing so far is Jenson Button, who is currently third in the championship with 61 points and trying hard to catch a very lack-lustre Rubens Barichello with 74.

Much will be made of Zsolt Baumgartner, Hungary’s first F1 driver, competing at his own home GP. Whilst it would be nice to imagine that Zsolt (pronounced Djolt, by the way) would rise up buoyed by the adoring Hungarians, forget the fairytales. Zsolt will be dead set motherless last. As usual.

Zsolt Baumgartner

Hungaroring Circuit

Hungary, despite its lack of success in getting Hungarian F1 drivers near the front, has a long history, with its first GP run in 1906, and regular events in Budapest since 1926.

Built with state backing, and laid out in a natural amphitheatre, the Hungaroring opened in 1986 and attracted an estimated 200,000 spectators. Though the event was well organized, and the hosts very appreciative, it was felt that the 2.494 mile Hungaroring had been laid out more in the style of a twisty street circuit rather than a bespoke road track. There were few opportunities for overtaking, though things were eased from 1989 when a tight corner was by-passed and the lap distance became 2.466 miles. However, it remains a circuit that is not high on any of the drivers’ lists, unless you are after a quick knee-trembler behind the pits, as the Hungarian government actually erected (nice word in the sex scene) some mobile brothels a couple of years ago. I think they are still in use today!

F1 World Championship points table

1 Michael Schumacher German Ferrari 110 points

2 Rubens Barrichello Brazilian Ferrari 74

3 Jenson Button British BAR-Honda 61

4 Jarno Trulli Italian Renault 46

5 Fernando Alonso Spanish Renault 39

6 Juan Pablo Montoya Colombian Williams-BMW 33

7 David Coulthard British McLaren-Mercedes 19

8 Kimi Raikkanen Finnish McLaren-Mercedes 18

9 Takuma Sato Japanese BAR-Honda 15

10 Giancarlo Fisichella Italian Sauber-Petronas 13

11 Ralf Schumacher German Williams-BMW 12

12 Mark Webber Australian Jaguar-Cosworth 7

13 Felipe Massa Brazilian Sauber-Petronas 5

13 Olivier Panis French Toyota 5

15 Cristiano da Matta Brazilian Toyota 3

15 Nick Heidfeld German Jordan-Ford 3

17 Antonio Pizzonia Brazilian Williams-BMW 2

17 Timo Glock German Jordan-Ford 2

19 Zsolt Baumgartner Hungarian Minardi-Cosworth 1

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that dual foot brakes, with one that worked on the transmission and the other at the wheels were offered and I asked on what cars? The answers included Mercedes, Gobron-Brillie and Delaunay-Belleville. The idea was that you alternated the brakes coming down steep hills, to stop brake fade.

So to this week. A very famous French racing driver raced under a pseudonym, which he took in memory of his pioneering driver uncle. He was a world class tennis player and an ice hockey specialist. He raced in F1, but only six times, retiring in three and scoring no points. I want to know, what was this driver’s real name?

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

Good luck!

Toyota Avanza hits Thailand’s shores

The much touted Avanza has arrived, and I took the opportunity to have a quick look at one the other day. Made in Indonesia, it is the result of cooperation between Daihatsu (owned by Toyota) and Toyota Motor in Indonesia, as a response to the Indonesian government call for a cheap local vehicle.

Toyota Avanza

According to Tokyo, the vehicle centered on maximizing the strengths of both Daihatsu and Toyota Motor Corp, resulting in a high-performance and high-quality innovative compact vehicle at an affordable price.

Their take on it is that Avanza boasts a refined and stylish exterior and hood design and a comfortable and sophisticated interior with multiple seat arrangements. An advanced package allows three rows of seats in a compact body only four meters long, delivering ample space for up to seven occupants.

It also comes with a newly developed high-power, high-performance and highly fuel-efficient engine (1.3 liter) and a suspension system that offers a comfortable ride and stable handling.

It is produced at Daihatsu’s Indonesian production base, PT. Astra Daihatsu Motor (ADM), and sold through PT. Astra International (AI) and PT. Toyota-Astra Motor (TAM).

Toyota is confident that the new small car - based on Daihatsu’s small-car production know-how and Toyota’s quality - is a new type of vehicle that can be globally competitive. Total investment in this project is USD 90 million.

Well that’s the blurb from Toyota Motor Japan. Looking at the vehicle, it is a very standard front engined, rear wheel drive, drum braked rear, scaled down people mover. It does have tricky rear triple row seats, so it will seat seven (or probably a family of ten Thai people). It does have air-bags and ABS brakes and a variable valve timing engine that develops 88 bhp, say Toyota, but at only 1.3 litres I reckon it might get a little breathless with seven up. But we shall see.

It was not expensive, and with its lack of engineering sophistication will probably last forever! What it drives like, I have no idea, but I will try and get my backside in one as soon as possible.

Toyota are importing 700 a month at this stage, and there are back orders for the car in Indonesia.

Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia

With Thailand being well represented in the international Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup by Nattavude Charoensukhawatana, currently the joint leader with Hong Kong’s Charles Kwan (88 points), the next round in China should be interesting.

This will be August 14-15 at Beijing’s Goldenport Circuit in rounds 6 and 7, as the season reaches the half way stage. The championship title is still wide open as just 16 points adrift is Malaysia’s Rizal Ramli. The Malaysian has collected pole positions for four of the five rounds held so far, winning three. Ramli, who previously competed in Formula 3 in Europe, won both rounds in Thailand last month.

A colleague of mine is A-Ha Racing’s Matthew Marsh who is fourth going in to the next rounds but will also be on top form coming fresh from his win in a support race for the British F1 Grand Prix.

Kwan is sponsored by Infineon, but knows that he is in for a tough time. “Nattavude and Rizal will be my biggest challenges in Beijing, but Matthew is also a quick driver,” said Kwan.

Another Thai driver, Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak, is in fifth, while local identity Bill Heineke is there too, racing in the ‘Gentleman’s class’ called Class B for amateur drivers. Bill missed the Thailand rounds at the Bira circuit because he was in Italy having a fang in a Ferrari Cup car. Class B is led by Max Chen of Taipei with 27 points, followed by Dr. Toshihide Hashimura of Japan.

The Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia runs as part of the Asian Festival of Speed, organised by Malaysian-based Motorsport Asia Limited.

Good news if you’re lusting after a Lambo

Lamborghini Murcielago

Those of you with a spare 30 million baht for a Lamborghini Murcielago (or even 19.5 million if you want the ‘cheapie’ Gallardo) will be heartened by the news that Niche Cars Ltd is a new company set up in Bangkok to import Lambo’s and other exotic sports cars. They have even set up a Lambo service center under the concept “Passion for Perfection” according to the latest issue of ASEAN Autobiz. Those of you who have the misfortune to have one of those diabolic Diablo’s now have a place to go to have all the bits that drop off glued back on again! (And I’m not joking!)

Mitsu on the mend - well at least in Thailand

With Mitsubishi Motors in Japan being in more strife than Flash Gordon, it is heartening to see that Mitsubishi Motors Thailand (MMTh) claim that their profits last year were higher than predicted and they exported a record 82,000 vehicles from our shores.

President and CEO of MMTh, Hisayoshi Kumai, claimed that the Laem Chabang assembly plant is working at capacity, and despite problems elsewhere, including the parent company in Japan, there were no plans to down-size, and in fact they were looking at expansion in Thailand, with more dealerships. Currently they have 92 with 142 showrooms.

Earlier this year, before the fit hit the shan, Mitsubishi had promised a 21 billion baht expansion fund for MMTh, but the new CEO Kumai claims this is still happening, despite plant closures in Japan and Australia. “The investment is well underway and being carried out in stages,” he said.

MMTh will also introduce the new Space Wagon people mover in a few months, to make another player in the market initiated by GM with their very successful Zafira.