Italian GP this weekend

With Ferrari having won the Manufacturer’s Championship a couple of races ago, and Michael Schumacher having won the Driver’s Championship two weeks ago, is there anything to interest us? In actual fact, plenty!

Kimi Raikkonen

First off, will McLaren Mercedes continue with their winning way? Raikkonen was unstoppable at Spa, and even his team mate David Coulthard managed to score a couple of points despite punctures and minor crashes. Ferrari will not be sitting on their hands, now that McLaren are back!

One has to feel a little sorry for BMW Williams. Ralf Schumacher (who is going to Toyota next year) is still on the injured list, having failed a medical to see if he could return for this meeting, and his erstwhile running mate Juan Pablo Montoya is demonstrating a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude to the Williams team, since he is going to McLaren next year. Sir Frank and Patrick Head are not happy campers.

The Toyota pit won’t be brimming with bonhomie either. Da Matta was invited to carry out Hara Kiri, so he’s gone. “Veteran” Olivier Panis knows he is skating on thin ice too, as his results have been no better than Da Matta’s all year. Zonta (ex third driver) or Briscoe (currently test driver) for Ralfie’s partner next year? Doubt it.

However, in these last four GP’s, all the drivers who are going to get the push have to demonstrate just how good they really are. Messrs Coulthard, Panis, Sato, Trulli, Heidfeld, Pantano, Klien, Zonta and others will really be trying, or they can kiss their F1 seat goodbye.

I will be watching the Monza GP from my usual roost at Shenanigans. The race begins at 7 p.m., so you have enough time to get there from the Children’s Charity Fair. Join me for dinner before the action begins.

Monza - one of the most historical circuits on the calendar

From the beginning, Monza was an important venue and, from 1922 has hosted the Italian GP almost every year. Indeed, its opening caused members of the Brescia Automobile club to instigate the Mille Miglia. Brescia had lost its previous high status in Italian motor sport with the coming of Monza. There was also ancient rivalry in that Monza is in Piedmont and Brescia is in Lombardy.

This level of passion has long been a feature of Italian racing and is nowhere better experienced than at Monza when Ferrari is present. The word is ‘present’, not ‘racing’, the tifosi will turn out by the ten thousand just for testing.

Like many other circuits, Monza has not been a single layout, but a series of more than a dozen layouts which have ranged in length from 1.482 miles to 6.214 miles. The circuit was opened in the Monza Royal Park, near Milan, in 1922 and featured bankings, though these were demolished in 1939. The bankings which featured in some races, 1955-69, were new structures built on the format of the original. Bankings were used for the Italian GP in 1955, ’56, ’60 and ’61, and were last used for racing of any form in 1969 when the concrete became in need of substantial resurfacing and rebuilding.

From 1950 to 1954, the purely road circuit was 3.915 miles long, but the layout was eased, slightly shortened (to 3.571 miles) and made faster for 1957 and 1958. That is not a misprint, the track was made faster and easier to overtake on.

Between 1962 and 1971 this revised circuit provided an opportunity for high-speed racing with lots of slipstreaming and overtaking. The 1971 Italian GP holds the record for the fastest-ever Formula One race but, emphatically, that is not the same as saying the fastest race for Grand Prix cars. Though you would not know it to listen to some people, that honour remains in the possession of the 1937 Avusrennen.

After 1971, the circuit underwent some revisions to discourage slipstreaming and to lower the average lap speed. Chicanes were added in 1976 and, in 1994, the second Lesmo Bend was tightened and the Curve Grande was re-profiled.

Loy Krathong Off-Road Day in Chiang Mai

I am told that this will be the biggest gathering of all off-road clubs in Thailand, a regular jamboree. The organizers are expecting between 500-700 4 x 4s for this event, so it sounds as if it will be fun.

Participation is free (always the best price in my book) and there will be off-road caravans, off-road shows, off-road competitions, food stalls, spare parts and accessories booths, plus all the thingys that off-roaders might ever need (like maps and distress flares, in my experience).

Everyone is invited to this event. Details of the affair are being mapped out at the moment and full information should be out for distribution by early September this year. For further info contact Off Road magazine (Tel 02 522 1731-36, Ext. 356 or 357) or Capt. Sitthichoke on 01 864 2270, or email offshore marine and shipsm[email protected]

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week, in an attempt to stymie the ‘googlers’ I suggested a “Who Am I?” The vehicle I was looking for had a mid-mounted 3.5 litre, six cylinder engine developing close to 300 bhp. It was supposed to be built in Italy, but ended up in Germany. Only 450 examples were ever made. Each one was a two door coupe. I asked what car was this? The answer was the BMW M1 that was supposed to be built by Lamborghini, but ended up being built in Stuttgart. It had a 24 valve head from a 6 series car, complete with twin overhead cams. The year was 1978.

So to this week. GTO is a famous set of initials. The Pontiac GTO being a fine example. However, the initials were first used by Ferrari, with their GTO. What did GTO stand for?

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

Good luck!

A driver voices his opinion on the rules

David Coulthard has come out in favour of going the full distance. He is advocating no refueling, and the cars to race till the end without stopping. This would certainly stop the ‘passing in the pits’ strategy, which the fans do not like. We would much prefer to see Schumi pass Raikkonen on the track, or vice versa!

David Coulthard

“In the days before refuelling, there was more chance of a change in the race (order) as people were kinder to their tyres, or not, depending on how they drove,” the McLaren driver said. “Get rid of refuelling and then the driver has the choice to do a tyre stop or go all the way through. Looking at history it’s fair to say that to rely on a pit stop as being the pivotal excitement of the race is soon going to be forgotten by the public.” David Coulthard, I could not have said it better. Let’s hope the FIA listen to him, as the governing body certainly does not appear to be listening to us - the viewing public.

Nineteen F1 races for 2005 - time to talk Turkey

With the teams already complaining about the strain of competing in 18 races this year with the addition of China and Bahrain, the FIA calendar for next year has the addition of Turkey. The teams are complaining again!

However, it is time for the FIA to listen to the spectators. A race every couple of weeks is fine - provided that we see a motor race and not a procession. If the design of the circuit is such that it is impossible to pass, then drop that GP. The Hungarian debacle being a prime example.

Here is the provisional 2005 F1 calendar

Race 1. March 6th - Australia
Race 2. March 20th - Malaysia
Race 3. April 3rd - Bahrain
Race 4. April 17th - Imola
Race 5. April 24th - Europe
Race 6. May 8th - Spain
Race 7. May 22nd - Monaco
Race 8. June 5th - Canada
Race 9. June 12th - USA
Race 10. June 26th - France
Race 11. July 3rd - Britain
Race 12. July 17th - Germany
Race 13. July 31st - Turkey
Race 14. August 21st - Hungary
Race 15. September 4th - Belgium
Race 16. September 11th - Italy
Race 17. September 25th - China
Race 18. October 9th - Japan
Race 19. October 23rd - Brazil

When will we pick up a Picanto?

A few weeks ago I featured Kia, a small company with very big ideas. That is if you call wishing to be number five in the world by year 2010 big ideas - I do!

In this country Kia is represented by Yontrakit, who have announced that they are looking at bringing the Kia Picanto into Thailand, with a view to production here as well. The Picanto is a small car which could fit into the government’s ‘Eco Car’ project and make Yontrakit eligible for all kinds of tax and other development incentives.

To begin with, the Picanto would come in as CBU and the projected pricing is between 350,000 - 450,000 baht. That is certainly bargain basement prices for a four door sedan, and I don’t care how small it is. It even looks like today’s version of the Daihatsu Mira, or its four door cousin the Perodua Kancil from Malaysia. At that price there will be a queue at the dealerships. To be able to buy a petrol miser is going to be a real ‘plus’, but to be able to buy one new, cheaper than the cheapest pick-up will make it sensational. You only have to look at the second hand value of any Daihatsu and you can see that the buying public like small cheap fuel efficient vehicles. The Picanto will be a sensation. Put your name down today.

Natter Nosh and Noggin

The car (and bike) enthusiasts will be meeting again this Monday night (13th) at Shenanigans Pub at 7 p.m. This is a totally informal meeting of like minded souls which meets on the second Monday of every month to discuss their pet motoring (and motorcycling) loves and hates. It is free to join and I suggest that you bring along magazines or photographs so that the group can get involved in the discussion. Generally we have something to eat while we are there and wash it down with something amber, hence the name, Natter, Nosh and Noggin. Just ask any of the lovely Shenanigans girls where Dr. Iain and the group are and they will point us out and give you a push.