Automania

Coulthard starts wringing his hands

About this time each year we would normally get the usual drivel from David Coulthard. “This coming season will be my year,” and other fighting words. Unfortunately it doesn’t look as if 2005 will be any sort of year for DC, as having lost his comfortable rocking chair at McLaren to Juan Pablo Montoya, it seems there are not too many seats left for the lantern-jawed Scot.

David Coulthard

When it was thought that Jenson Button was going to Williams, DC had his hand up at BAR, saying, “Pick me, pick me,” but that all fell through when the Contract Review Board told Button he was contracted to BAR, and that was that.

The best seat left in the F1 house has then to be at Williams alongside Mark Webber. DC has now got his hand up for that one, but so also do several other drivers. DC is really plucking at the heart-strings now, saying, “I quite simply want the opportunity to show what I can do at a team outside the nine years I had at McLaren. I believe I can deliver.”

Sir Frank Williams

However, he has also had to admit that in the latter half of this year’s Championship he didn’t do his chances of finding a new team any favours. “I can’t deny I haven’t been up with Kimi (Raikkonen) in the second half of the season,” Coulthard said. “But that’s not because I ran out of talent. You’ve got to be mentally and physically well prepared and that’s very difficult to do in a position where you know you’re not wanted. All sports people go through ups and downs in their form. But there are three fundamental questions that have to be asked. Do I still have the speed? The data would suggest ‘yes’. Do I still have the desire? I can absolutely say I do. And do I still have the commitment? Well, not parking the car at somewhere like Spa, where I’ve rattled down the barriers at 190mph when the team are telling me to park the car, shows either a level of commitment or stupidity.”

In actual fact, I must give DC his due. When the 2004 Williams duo, Montoya and Ralf Schumacher, just threw in the towel if something went wrong, DC plugged on with a dour Scottish determination, getting some points for McLaren, and gaining many points in many observers’ opinion.

DC would be a good ‘back-up’ driver in any team, but Williams (and McLaren) have shown they don’t want a strong back-up. They want pointy end fighters, and that is why DC got the shove from McLaren, and why I think Sir Frank Williams will give him the cold shoulder too.

I believe they are evaluating Pizzonia (the current test driver), Anthony Davidson (who has been stunningly fast all year as the number 3 BAR driver, quicker than Button and Sato) and Nick Heidfeld (who did not cover himself with glory with Jordan this year, being only marginally faster than inexperienced new drivers), but he is German and so is engine supplier BMW.

Williams do not need ‘pay drivers’ to sit alongside Webber, and I believe that Pizzonia’s “jungle boy” image will go against him. I will put my money on Davidson for the second seat. We will see after the official tests at the end of November, but don’t put your money on DC.

All I hope is that DC takes relegation gracefully. He should not go back down the grid and take a seat with Jordan or Minardi. That is not the way to spend your final years in the sport. He has been offered a PR spot with McLaren and he should take it and enjoy his dotage and a free Benz every year.


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week, I mentioned the first catalogued supercharged cars were Mercedes. The question revolved around the two models that were exhibited at a motor show. I asked which motor show and what year? The show was the Berlin Motor Show (that was easy to guess) and the year was 1921. Not as easy to guess.

So to this week. We used wood for wheel spokes for many years, and in fact the last recorded use of wooden spoked wheels was on the Mercedes Nurburg of 1939. However, some cars were built totally on a wooden unitary construction, such as the Marcos GT of 1960. Marcos was not the first to do this, as Marks-Moir in Australia tried it in 1923. But who was the first? I want to know the car company and the date.

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email automania @chiangmai-mail.com

Good luck!

Volkswagen Touareg

Is it a Porsche Cayenne without the fancy badges. Not at all, according to our down-under correspondent John Weinthal, who spent some time, on and off-road with this vehicle. Here are the Words from Weinthal.

“Volkswagen’s new Touareg represents a genuinely significant entry to the ranks of serious off-road wagons. It comes from Europe’s largest vehicle builder - a firm with a formidable reputation for engineering excellence, build quality and more than a touch of market savvy. The VW Group embraces a raft of automotive brands including Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Skoda and SEAT.

“Heavy duty four-wheel-drives are about the only arena in which the VW Group has not played to date. However, it does have experience of all-wheel-drive in many vehicles including light commercials and cars ranging from the VW Bora and Passat 4Motion, through numerous Audi quattros to the latest Lamborghini Countach Gallardo and Murcielago.

“While most people think of VW as the archetypal German vehicle maker, in fact it has factories in all quarters of the globe. VW is, for instance, by far the largest automaker in China - the world’s fastest expanding vehicle market.

“The New Beetle emanates from Mexico; Bentley can only be British; Lamborghini Italian, SEAT is made in Spain and so it goes. Thus it should be no surprise that the imposing Touareg range should hail from Bratislava in Czechoslovakia. I believe they are the only Czech-made vehicles currently sold here in Australia.

“The Mitsubishi Challenger/Nissan Pathfinder-sized Touareg comes in three distinct specification levels identified primarily by their engines. Styling which implies function over flirt is common to all models and has clever relationships to other VW models - particularly the Golf from the rear.

“Tourag starts with a base - but still well equipped and highly competent - 3.2 litre, 162kW, V6 model at just under AUD 70,000. The second petrol Touareg is a 228kW, 4.2 litre V8 for AUD 100,000. But, all eyes will swing your way when you go on about your new 5 litre V10 diesel Touareg. It won’t be the AUD 139,000 price tag that grabs attention so much as twin-turbocharged 230kW V10 diesel engine’s ability to deliver an awesome 750Nm of torque available from just 2000 revs.

“This handsome, five-seater hold-all is more than adequately luxurious and lavishly equipped to justify its price, even before some of the high tech stuff is taken into account. Its only true competitors are the strangely styled yet closely related Porsche Cayenne and the grand daddy of all luxury off-roaders - the Ford-owned, British-made Range Rover.

“The V6 and V8 Touaregs compete with the likes of the BMW X5, Honda MDX, Lexus RX330 and the Mercedes ML, but of these only the Merc and VW are true off-roaders with high and low range transmissions. All are automatic only.

“Our first encounter with Touareg was with the V8s in the Daintree Forest north of Port Douglas and on the great tourist roads north of Cairns. Both proved ideal testing grounds for this car’s twin fortes demonstrating refined competence regardless of the demands of terrain and driver.

“Again one must emphasize that these are serious vehicles. Sure, their handsome good looks and lavish interiors fit them for the cityscape, but not to the extent that owners will be reluctant to get down and dirty from beach to rugged bushland.

“Safety is a standout feature with the number of airbags and electronic traction and braking aids rising with each model. Leather is the go for the V8 and V10 and for an L version of the V6 which costs AUD 9,000 more than the base V6. One of the best sat nav systems tried so far is the AUD 4,900 option for the V6 and V8 and standard on the V10.

“The autos have six speeds with manual over-ride available plus F1-style steering wheel paddle controls on the V8 and V10.

“Full air suspension is standard on the V10 and an AUD 8,400 option on the V8, this option adding brilliant xenon headlamps.

“Minor downsides are the fact that the smart 16”, 18" and 19" alloy wheels are backed up only by a space saver spare. A full size tailgate mounted spare is an expensive option regardless of model and you would not even want to consider the cost of replacing one of the giant 19" tyres fitted on the V10.

“There is a confusion of minor instruments with hard to read red needle on black background markings, and the V8 and V10 have a silly crowded 320kph speedometer.

“A more important criticism is the barely adequate air-conditioning. This is a weak area for several Europeans compared with even the most basic Asian and Aussie efforts. Not only does the Touareg air-con struggle to bring temperatures down and hold them but there is a constant fan roar which is almost enough to cancel conversation or enjoyment of the excellent sound systems.

“Beyond these niggles the interior is all class, on the V8 and V10 particularly - leather and wood trim, climate control air front and rear, fine sound system and - when fitted - excellent sat nav.

“There are plenty of useful storage spaces and the carpeted rear luggage cover is more than adequately commodious for a substantial camping break. A tonneau cover conceals your gear from prying eyes.

“VW has done well with Touareg. The few blemishes on the company’s first venture into the realm of big-time off-roaders will be easily remedied.”

(Thank you John, but the lack of cooling with the air-con would be a worry in Thailand that has higher ambient temperatures than Queensland, Australia. I believe a blemish such as that would be a very large one in this country, and not so easily remedied. Dr. Iain.)