Belgian GP this weekend
And let us all hope and pray that we see a motor
race, and not a procession! (However, read more on that further down.)
Spa is a very different circuit from Hungary. It is a real driver’s
circuit, and there is always the threat of rain, which could help
bring some drivers forward, and see the ‘power’ drivers slip back
almost nine mile Spa-Francorchamps circuit was the quickest of all the
classic road circuits and many would say, the greatest. It used public
roads through the mountains of the Ardennes in Southern Belgium and
even in the dry was a circuit for which you needed a good set of
cojones. In the wet it was only for heroes and as the region is known
as ‘The Pisspot of Europe’, races have frequently been held in the
Spa was first used for racing in 1924 and the first
Belgian GP was run in 1925, won by Antonio Ascari, father of the
double World Champion, Alberto Ascari.
Serious discontent with Spa began after a downpour
in the 1966 race which caused several crashes, most significantly one
involving Jackie Stewart which led to his campaign for improved
In 1983 a new 4.31-mile circuit was built incorporating some of the
original track, but with an improved surface and run-off areas. The
new Spa, which still includes some public roads, is the longest
circuit on the F1 calendar and, many believe, the most challenging.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Pierre Levegh
(real name Pierre Bouillon), who was killed in 1955 at the Le Mans 24
hour race when his Mercedes went out of control and went into the
crowd killing 83 and injuring many more. Mercedes withdrew from racing
at that point and did not return until many years later. I then asked
last week, which other manufacturer, despite winning their class also
withdrew from racing, scrapping all their race cars, other than one
example to be kept as a museum piece. The answer was Bristol.
to this week. Take a look at the photograph of this woman. She has
probably influenced automotive history more than any other woman in
the world. Who is she? I need her first and last names.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first
correct answer to email [email protected]
Mitsubishi troubles overseas
A couple of weeks ago, I noted that the president and CEO of
Mitsubishi Motors Thailand (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.
Mitsubishi Japan had promised a 21 billion baht expansion fund for MMTh, but 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. For Mitsubishi’s sake, and for the local employment
situation, I hope this continues. However, things do not look good overseas, and
since much of the local production is for export, there could be a knock-back
effect to the Laem Chabang production facility.
In the US, Automotive News reports that the trouble at
Mitsubishi has thrown the company’s product plans into disarray and left U.S.
dealers in the dark about what new models to expect. Several products under
development have been reviewed, revised, canceled, reconsidered or in some cases
reinstated. Most of Mitsubishi’s stand-alone U.S. dealerships are losing
money, the CEO of the automaker’s North American operations conceded last
In Japan in July, Mitsubishi Motors new vehicle sales fell to 50 percent of
the numbers from a year earlier, now down to 15,862. The company tried to say
that the sales were on target, but it hard to imagine any target being 50
percent down, especially since this is in the overall scenario where total sales
of all vehicles in Japan eased by only 0.3 percent.
Thailand is not the only country with
A researcher in Australia has discovered that fatalities
between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Australian roads from 2000 to 2003 were more than
double those between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. The number of fatal crashes peaked at
106 for the hour after 3 p.m. in both 2000 and 2001, which compares to an
average of 48 in the morning peak hour.
The researcher challenged the commonly held view that
Australians die alone, late at night, driving on country roads. Holden
Performance Driving Centre general manager Russell White provided his findings
to a driver-fatigue inquiry being conducted by Queensland Parliament’s
“People on the roads at the danger times, whether they be
tradesmen coming home from work, mothers picking up their children from school
or office workers finishing for the day, are distracted and somewhat fatigued -
even if there is plenty of daylight left,” says White. “Fatigue is not just
lack of sleep. It’s going through the regular tasks on auto-pilot, thinking
about the kids, the job, the shopping, the night ahead.” Russell White’s
submission urges the all-party committee to consider education initiatives and
improving driver reviver stops.
So what do you think the parliamentary committee made of all
this? The Travelsafe chairman Jim Pearce, the MP for Fitzroy (an Australian
electorate), said the committee would consider recommending tough police powers
to reduce the number of fatalities caused by tired drivers! An Aussie
government’s “War against Sleep”.
This brought the response from Russell White, “How do you
police fatigue? You can’t take a random sleep test. You can only ask people
when they had their last sleep,” he said.
Bureaucratic minds are very small!
What did we learn from the Hungarian GP?
First off, we learned that despite 20 of the so-called finest
racing cars in the world and 20 of the so-called best drivers in the world, they
could combine to produce one and a half hours of sheer tedium. I am happy for
Ferrari in that they showed their superiority (again) and have already won the
manufacturer’s championship, but the rest of the nine teams were crap and the
race likewise. It was a boring procession.
the end of the (dreadful) Star coverage, with the inane tele-bletherers Slater
and Goodwin, they have the “exciting moments” of the race replay for viewers
to vote upon. Normally they have five of these. At Hungary they could only
dredge up four. And what a four! Zonta gently running into Webber on the first
corner, Trulli stopping on the main straight (no, I am not making this up -
footage of a car parking), Webber’s spin and Michael Schumacher getting the
chequered flag. A reflection on just how dead-set boring the race really was.
Why do I say those unkind words? Because they are true,
that’s why. 27 percent of the remaining cars (other than Ferrari) did not make
it to the finish. Ron Dennis’ Mercedes-McLaren lasted 13 laps before expiring.
Not bad for a multi-million dollar motorcar! The Sauber managed 21 laps, Toyota
got all the way to 31, Renault staggered to 41 and Eddie Jordan’s Jordan
managed 48 laps out of the 70.
The FIA know they have a problem, but I am still waiting for them to come up
with concepts that will produce exciting racing, where we can see real drivers
fighting their cars and the other competitors. If the FIA asked any of the local
viewers they would hear, get rid of the wings, get rid of all electronic aids
and make the drivers shift gears and use the clutch. Forget the ceramic brakes
and go to metal discs again to lengthen the braking distances. That’s not a
bad start. Then they would hear there should be no refueling, and no new tyres.
We want to see drivers passing each other on the track. Not in the pits, and if
I hear the word “strategy” again, I think I’ll scream!
The best racing driver of all time?
With Michael Schumacher scooping the pool and well on the way
to his 7th World title by a huge margin, is Schumi the greatest?
I do not believe so, and I ask you to look critically at the
records of Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio. It is always difficult to compare
drivers from another era. These days there are 17 or so F1 races on the annual
calendar, while before there was about half this number. Races are much shorter
today, both in distance and in time. Three hours was commonplace in the 1950s.
The cars are very different, and in the ‘good old days’ the drivers were
totally in control. There was no launch or traction control, or automatic
So to be able to compare results all that you can do is look
at how many wins or podiums the drivers have managed, as a percentage of the
total F1 races they had entered.
Taking Juan Manuel Fangio first. To win his five world
championships, he competed in 51 F1 Grands Prix, and won 24 of them. Put another
way, he won 47 percent of all the GP’s he started in. Now if you look at total
podiums, Fangio had 35, that means that he ended up on the podium in 69 percent
of all the F1 events he lined up for.
Now let’s apply the same yard-stick to Michael Schumacher.
He has won 82 of the 207 GP’s he has been in, so he has won only 39.6 percent
of his F1 events. Total podiums for Schumi are 134, that is 65 percent of the
time he has ended up on the podium.
Conclusion - Fangio won a greater percentage of his events than Schumi has
done, and ended up on the podium more times percentage-wise as well. Juan Manuel
The best engine in Formula 1
There could be much debate over this subject. But there is
really no contest. The best engine is Ferrari, narrowly edging out Ford
Cosworth. Fortunately there are people with plenty of spare time who collect the
statistics, and as of last weekend the scores for GP’s won, by engine
Climax 40 (the old ‘fire-pump’ engine)