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