Vol. III No. 51 - Saturday December 18 - December 24. 2004
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Automania

Buying a new car - the wisest investment method

After purchasing a house, the family car is the second most expensive item you will ever buy. With many people now buying on the drip feed (Hire Purchase), an unwise investment gives you up to five years to regret your choice, if you find that the car you selected does not suit you or your needs.

Holiday Car Rental Mazda3

So how do you select your new car? For most people it is a case of reading road tests (like mine last week on the Mazda3) and then going to the new car showrooms, where (if you are lucky) you will get a trip around the block, with the salesman prattling in your ear about how good the car is.

This is not the way to buy a car!

Road tests are the staple fare of all motor magazines, and for the manufacturers, the road test magazine is one media outlet they want to impress. Let me assure you that any manufacturer which has even the slightest clue about marketing will make sure the motoring journo gets a good one!

No, for you to make up your mind as to what you want to buy read up as much as you can, doing internet searches as well, but remember that the specifications in other countries may not be the same as is offered here. A 2.3 litre American Mitsuhondayota will give totally different performance figures from a 1.6 litre Thai version!

When you have come down to the final couple, now you go for that all important test. And it isn’t round the block. It is a couple of days, doing everything that you normally use your car to do.

So where do you get one? You rent one, that’s what you do. Go to somewhere that has new cars and rent one for that couple of days.

Only this way will you see if the seat gives you a numb bumb in 30 minutes, whether is has enough oomph to do what you need, whether it rides like a dray or wallows like a pregnant porpoise. You will also see if it is so noisy you can’t hear the radio over 60 kph. Remember you have to love this car - it will be yours for the next five years!

Renting for a couple of days will cost you peanuts compared to the capital outlay involved in buying a car (cash or HP), and is the wisest investment you can make when contemplating that expensive purchase. And if you don’t like it, you just give it back at the end of two days, with a big smile, thinking about all the money you just saved!


Why F1 does not have the best drivers in the world

If you think that F1 has the best drivers in the world, think again. Hot on the heels of the news that Red Bull energy drink had bought Jaguar Racing from Ford, came the news that Red Bull’s boss, Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz, had announced that Austrian racer Christian Klien would continue as a driver for the former Jaguar Racing F1 team.

Christian Klien

This I find very disappointing, to say the least. Klien may be a perfectly wonderful young Austrian, but he showed conclusively during the 2004 season that he was out of his depth. He was outclassed totally by his team mate Mark Webber, both in qualifying and in racing. For example, there were only eight races in which they both finished. In those eight, Webber finished in front of Klien eight times! He is not ready for F1 yet.

Then we have all the other ‘pay drivers’ down the rear of the field driving for Jordan and Minardi. These are drivers who have not caught the imagination of other team principals through the nature of their results, so it’s odds on that we are not talking about the next Michael Schumachers! By using the Alex Yoongs, Giorgio Pantanos, Gianmaria Brunis or Zsolt Baumgartners, these teams are ensuring they will remain at the bottom of the table. Team owners should have realized by now that they will not shine with a crap car and crap driver combination. So why should the sponsors flock to their motor homes? But if they had a cracker of a young driver on his way up, that is a different story. People do take note. But that is not happening, the ‘impecunious’ team bosses are pocketing millions of dollars to present second or even third string drivers to the F1 viewing public.

So where do they get the next Michael Schumachers? There is an obvious ladder of ascendancy. Take drivers who have excelled in F3, F3000 or even F Renault and give them a couple of years as test drivers. You then have the ability to see if they are as quick as the regular drivers. If they are, then after their “apprenticeship” elevate them to full time contracted (and well paid) drivers. Surely this is logical?

The Dietrich Mateschitzs of this world should be looking at young drivers like Anthony Davidson, who has spent a couple of years as a test driver in F1, and on the Friday sessions was quicker than both the regular F1 ‘stars’ Jenson Button and Takumo Sato.

Only by doing this will we see the best F1 drivers. We did not see this in 2004. We are obviously not going to see it in 2005 either!

Ralf in frilly knickers?

Ralf Schumacher is setting new standards for himself, after investing USD 2.6 million in a porno film company. The outfit is a subsidiary of a German ‘erotic products’ company called (wait for it) Beate Uhse (pronounced “beat yours”). Beate Uhse is Europe’s leading sex store chain, which sells more than 10,000 products, which range from erotic films and sex toys to racy lingerie.

Ralf Schumacher

Ralfie’s money would be used to set up a chain of eight porn video shops in Slovenia. “For me, it’s just like any other investment,” he is reported to have told Bild newspaper. “I’ve entered as a silent partner,” said Ralf. Sounds like Beate Uhse has developed the world’s first silent vibrator!

However, in a late-breaking announcement Ralf has now decided to withdraw from the venture after German comedian Stefan Raab made jokes about his unusual investment.

“It’s become a campaign against me. My role as an example to others is more important than any money,” Ralf told Bild, the German newspaper.

Meanwhile Willi Weber, the manager of both Schumacher brothers, has revealed that Ralf will be suing Raab, as his jokes meant the end of his plans to invest in the erotic empire. “Raab went too far, he has damaged the Schumacher honour,” Weber commented.


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week, I featured Mazda who were the first to get the Wankel engine into a production car, just before NSU with the ill-fated Ro80. It was a twin rotor, and I asked what was the car called? This was easy - it was the Mazda Cosmo.

So to this week. A heavy industry company began making Model-A passenger vehicles in 1917. The company is still in business today. It is not Ford Motor Company. Who is it?

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

Good luck!


Sir Stirling Moss - the greatest driver not to win the world championship?

Sir Stirling, one of motorsport’s best loved ‘characters’ is often written up as an unlucky driver and the greatest driver not to win the world championship. Many have put this down to the fact that he wanted to drive British cars, and I have even fallen into that trap myself until it was pointed out by our Down-Under correspondent John Weinthal that this is not strictly correct, unless you call Mercedes Benz and Maserati British!

Sir Stirling and his Maserati

Whilst in no way wishing to detract from his achievements, a brief look at Sir Stirling’s record is in order. A little comparison is also in order with the man I consider the best driver ever, Juan Manuel Fangio, who raced at the same time, and in fact he and Moss were team mates some years.

Both raced in the 1950’s with Fangio contesting 51 Grands Prix to Moss’ 66. During that time Fangio came home first in 47 percent of his races, while Moss in only 24 percent. Fangio also started from pole in 56 percent of the GP’s, while Moss in only 24 percent of his GP’s. If not winning outright, Fangio stood on the podium for 68 percent of his races, compared to Moss with 36 percent.

The next statistic is even more telling, and perhaps explains why Moss never won that elusive championship. Fangio retired from 27 percent of the Grands Prix he contested, but Moss retired in more than half of his GP’s - 53 percent to be specific. The old adage runs, “To finish first, first you have to finish.” Moss did not seem to have learned that.

So was Moss a car breaker? The gross figures would look as if they imply that, and it is difficult to explain away otherwise the difference between Fangio and Moss. Both were exceptional drivers, but Fangio did not get to the finish line on only 14 occasions, while Moss’ record shows 35 retirements. That was enough to lose him that world championship he desired.

For my money, Juan Manuel Fangio is still head and shoulders above them all, including the elder Schumacher. Fangio raced in Grands Prix that took three hours, in racing cars with precious little safety. He took something like six seconds off the lap record for the long circuit at Nurburgring in a Maserati. Not 0.65 seconds, but 6.0 seconds! If you ever get the chance to see footage of his memorable GP there in 1957, sit down and watch the ultimate master at work!


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