Chinese GP this weekend

Ying-tong-iddle-I-po, as Neddy Seagoon used to say from the inimitable Goon Show! The Chinese GP arrives at last and the only map I have managed to find shows that the circuit designed by Messrs. Tilke and Wahl is very twisting. However, it will be interesting to see how long it will take the F1 drivers to get to grips with the circuit.

In actual fact, it will take the top guys less than 10 laps to get to grips with it, as all corners are similar to ones at other circuits in one way or another, and Michael Schumacher and company will soon show the Chinese what high speed driving is all about.

The circuit architects Hermann Tilke and Peter Wahl are reported as saying, “The 5.4 kilometre racing track is shaped like the Chinese character ‘shang’, which stands for ‘high’ or ‘above’. Other symbols represented in the architecture originate from Chinese history, such as the team buildings arranged like pavilions in a lake to resemble the ancient Yuyan-Garden in Shanghai. Here, nature and technology are carefully used to create harmony between the elements.” (That should have put at least another few million dollars on the price!)

Since the circuit does incorporate high speed straights with tight corners at the end of them, there should be opportunities for passing. Or let us hope so!

The race will start (I think) at 1 p.m. on Sunday, but as always, check your own TV feed, as I would not like to be held responsible if you miss the start!

The Autotrivia Quiz ultimate answer?

Recently I asked what did the initials GTO actually stand for, and the first correct answer of Gran Turismo Omologato came from Belgium from regular reader Eric Servaes. However, somewhat late, but very detailed came the following information from Will Kelsall in Pattaya.

Will, who admits to being somewhat of a pedant, still produced a wonderful response which I thought I should share. Over to Will:

In answer to your Automania question, GTO stands for “Gran Turismo Omologato” or “Grand Tour Homogolated”.

The initials were used by Ferrari to describe what is now one of the most sought after collectors’ cars in the world. I would suggest that at the time it meant that the car complied with a set of competition regulations for production car racing. (Le Mans maybe or other long distance race?) Homologated means the car has “an official specification of performance for sale in a particular market or use in a particular class of racing” (OED).

Pontiac just copied the name from Ferrari and probably didn’t even know what the “O” stood for; in all probability most Pontiac owners will tell you it stands for the “GreaT One”.

However being a natural born pedant, I find the origins of the initials GT are more interesting. We all know that if we see “GT” on the back of a car now it suggests a higher performance than the standard model - but why?

The answer lies with Rolls-Royce and in the 18th Century Neo Classicism - With the re-awakening in the 18th century of interest in the classical cultures of Greece and primarily Rome it was usual for any young (English) nobleman to take a trip to Italy as part of his education. He would set off with an enormous entourage of servants, carriages, money etc and trek through Europe to Rome. Once there he would study the art and architecture of Rome and buy, steal or vandalize a few statues and then return to his stately home in England suitably edified.

This exercise was called he “Grand Tour”, but of course he’d been to Italy so it was referred to as the “Gran Turismo”.

So how does this get transferred to the idea of a fast car, I hear you ask (or is that just snoring?). Remember the Ferrari GTO was designed for long distance racing and this is the key. At the beginning of the 20th century Rolls-Royce wanted to prove the reliability of their motor-cars so someone had the bright idea of re-creating the idea of the Grand Tour. What could be more appropriate for potential Rolls-Royce customers? A car was duly prepared and then driven to Rome and back - presumably without breaking down? Thus proving Rolls’ reliability and becoming the first GT car - good ol’ Rolls-Royce!

Will Kelsall

PS - Pity they never thought to copyright the name! But then they’re not too good at keeping hold of names are they?!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week, I mentioned a car that was built in 1922 with independent suspension, a five cylinder radial air-cooled engine and the spare wheel set into the side of the car, in the place where you would expect the rear door. It was built by O. D. North. I asked what was the name of the car? It was called the North Lucas.

So to this week. A radical new steam car was built in London. The actual parts were made in Cornwall and they were shipped to London for assembly. The vehicle proved to be fast (for its day) and reliable, but it was dismantled after one year as nobody was interested in buying it. What was the name of this vehicle, and what year was it built?

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

Good luck!

Chevrolet Lumina CV8 (Perhaps?)

Chevrolet is striking back in Thailand. After GM’s Opel badge was allowed to fall out of view, the local fortunes began to sparkle again with the advent of the Zafira. The people mover has been a great success and locally produced cars are being exported all over the world.

Chevrolet Lumina CV8

However, the new Free Trade Agreements between Thailand and Australia will see the transfer of vehicles between the two countries stepping up. We already have the Aussie Holden, sold here as the Chevrolet Lumina, and the observant ones amongst you may have spotted a black one driven by one of the GM executives. And it looks damn good too, but currently at a tad under 2 million baht, just a little pricey. The FTA might just change that - or at least I hope so, as the down-under Holden is a good car.

The model that interests me is the Monaro two door, sold in the US as the Pontiac GTO. These are good touring cars with a lusty V8 at the sharp end and rear wheel drive. With some luck, we could see one or two here. With the FTA they should be competitive price-wise, and with Holden (GM) engineering, they are more than competitive performance-wise. This is the view most other drivers will ever get.

More on this next week.

Formula BMW Asia looking forward to 2005

Five BMW Scholarships, which offer a financial contribution of USD 50,000 each plus the season-long Education and Coaching programme, are once again open to youngsters anywhere in Asia, aged between 15 and 21, and with no previous international racing experience. Applications are now open and the Scholarship Qualifying trials, the first step towards securing a Scholarship, will be held at the new Formula 1 circuit in Bahrain in February next year.

Formula BMW has national series running in Germany, the UK, and the USA as well as Asia, and can count amongst its graduates Formula 1 drivers Ralf Schumacher and Christian Klien, and Jordan F1 test driver Timo Glock.

Formula BMW Asia has been truly representative of the Asian region with drivers from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Morocco and Bahrain competing in the series in 2004. In 2005, the series will visit circuits in seven different countries, and support two Formula 1 Grands Prix in Bahrain and China, giving the drivers the opportunity to compete in front of the most influential names in international motorsport.

Toyota to inVIGOrate Australia?

Hot on the heels of the release of the Vigo pick-up in Thailand, comes the news that Toyota Australia are interested in importing fully built up Vigos from Thailand. The Vigo is part of Toyota’s global IMV program (International Multi-purpose Vehicle) with which Toyota has models designed to sell in more than 140 countries. In the IMV range there is also a people mover, but it is the Hilux Vigo that interests Toyota down-under.

Toyota Vigo

With the Free Trade Agreement between Thailand and Australia ready to come into force on January 1, it would make good financial sense for Toyota to bring in exports from Thailand, rather than Indonesia, for example, where the Avanza’s are assembled. While the chassis-based Vigo could be built in Toyota Australia’s Altona plant, the next generation of Australian built Toyotas are based on the Camry platform, not on a cab-chassis technology, so it is not likely that it would be built in Australia.

The new vehicle with its rack and pinion steering, petrol and turbo-diesels, softer suspensions and other more sedan-like features will increase its appeal. The Hilux series (and Vigo is the seventh) has always been popular down-under and the very civilized Vigo should be well accepted. However, I doubt very much that the Aussies would take to the name “Vigo”. I think it would very quickly be called the Viagro!

The removalists keeping busy

By the time this Mail has hit the streets, the following ‘hot’ news items may be common knowledge, but at the time of going to press, were still in the rumour category.

The Jarno Trulli and Renault saga continues, with Trulli having been sacked according to my information. Jacques Villeneuve has had his seat fitting with Renault, and has had his track test at Silverstone, that is known fact. The rumour is that he will have the second seat at Renault for the Chinese GP in the place of Trulli, and this looks very likely. The latest test times from Silverstone with Villeneuve at the wheel show that he has not lost his touch, and is very competitive.

It has been fairly certain for some time that Trulli will be going to Toyota next year to partner Ralf Schumacher (which was confirmed last week), but the other hot rumour is that Zonta at Toyota will also be shown the door (like Da Matta a couple of months back) and Trulli will take his seat for China if an arrangement can be found with Flavio Briatore. (Trulli may not be able to do anything until his management contract with Briatore expires in September.)

The other hot goss, which may also have been confirmed by the Chinese GP, is that Pantano at Jordan has also been sacked and replaced by test driver Timo Glock. Pantano has already missed one GP when his backers were apparently a bit slow in paying Eddie Jordan for Pantano’s weekend fun job! However, Pantano has hardly covered himself with glory in the GPs he has contested, and would appear to be out of his depth, while Glock has a large German consortium with big bank rolls.

The optimist race driver is the one who takes his lunch to work!