What did we learn from the Malaysian Grand Prix?
Renault bagged their second win from two Grands
Prix, with Fernando Alonso, the 23 year old Spaniard driving away from
everyone, with a most impressive performance. Before the race I was
informed that odds on Alonso to win the world championship were
standing at 15:1. They will be shorter now.
We also saw it might be time to trade in the
Ferrari and buy a Toyota. If the race results at Sepang are anything
to go by, then ditch the F50 and get a Toyota Vios! How the mighty
have fallen. Michael Schumacher at one stage lapped by Trulli in the
Toyota, who by coming in second gave Toyota their first podium. Who
would ever have thought this could happen? There would have been a
queue at the confessional at Maranello on Monday.
And while on the Japanese invasion, Honda had the
weekend to forget, with both BAR Honda’s detonating on the second
lap! Jenson Button complaining loudly, “Compared to last year,
we’ve taken a huge step back in every area. It’s just not good
enough. The annoying thing is that we are quick. Our pace was very
good considering the amount of fuel we had on board. It’s got to
change but I don’t think it’s going to change straightaway and
that’s the only worry.” He then finished by saying, “I’m
angry, I’m very angry.” I’m sure that will not endear him to his
employers, Messrs. Honda at BAR! And perhaps it may also be a
reflection on the fact that previous boss David Richards was shown the
door at the end of last year.
Whilst Renault could smell victory all the way from
the start to the finish with Alonso, their other driver Fisichella,
the winner two weeks ago, did not have the best of weekends. With
tyres that were obviously shot, he was hounded and then passed by the
BMW Williams of Mark Webber and they then indulged in a pass and
repass duel, ending up with the Renault sliding into the Williams, and
both lost their chance at third step on the podium, handing it to Nick
Heidfeld, who said “Danke” and smiled all the way to the finish.
The McLaren team were slowly pulling up through the
order, with Raikkonen getting the better of Montoya, but then blew a
tyre, which blew his chances of gaining any points.
While the first half of the race was quite frankly
dull, in the second half we actually saw some racing drivers having a
go at racing each other! Ralf Schumacher was involved in a few
argy-bargys, while the other biff and bash merchant Jacques Villeneuve
did not get close enough to the action to actually race anybody, and
finished his day sliding into the kitty litter. It was no loss.
We also saw that David Coulthard seems to have been
given a new lease of life at Red Bull. He actually looks like he is
enjoying not having a Finn as the other driver in the team, and Klien
even kept his nose clean and also finished in the points.
With the next race being in Bahrain next weekend,
there will be much burning of the candles at Ferrari and BAR Honda. Do
not be surprised if Ferrari bring the Pope to help in the pits, while
the Japanese engineers at BAR will be bringing Hara-Kiri swords, for
use in face saving emergencies.
Motor Show on now!
The Bangkok International Motor Show will run until
April 23. This is the 26th annual holding of this event, and should
not be confused with the smaller event held later in the year, which
is run by the motor dealers as a way to get you into a car!
The Bangkok International Motor Show is the one
sanctioned by the world body, and so ‘our’ show rates alongside
that of Detroit, Frankfurt, Tokyo and Paris. Consequently you will
find the displays are run by the manufacturers, rather than the end
sales point dealerships.
With the world gripped by the fear of running out
of oil (or it becoming just too expensive), the theme for this
year’s show in Bangkok is that geared towards energy-saving and
fuel-efficient vehicles. “Thailand spends more than 200 billion baht
for fuel every year, and we need to lower this figure as much as we
can,” said Jaturont Komolmis, the vice-chairman of the motor show
With the yo-yo fuel prices and the relaxing of the
diesel subsidy, this means we should be looking at economy running,
not necessarily ‘economy’ cars. The concept now is fuel
efficiency. It is for this reason that diesel passenger cars are so
popular in Europe. The fuel is not much cheaper than gasoline, but
diesel engines are much more fuel-efficient.
Hybrid vehicles will be prominent at the show, with
Toyota currently the market leader with its Prius. Last year saw
120,000 Prius vehicles sold across the world, and Toyota has the Lexus
RX330 hybrid coming as well.
Not far behind is Honda, which makes hybrid
versions of the Civic and the Accord, as well as the hybrid-only
Insight. GM has a couple on the way towards production, while Ford
have already released the Escape hybrid.
The Thai government is also looking at promoting
fuel efficiency and has reduced excise duties for environmentally
friendly cars from around 48 percent to 10 percent. The consumer wins
twice! Cheaper running and cheaper purchase.
Natural gas is another alternative fuel, and DaimlerChrysler will
have some natural gas powered vehicles on show, as well as their
priceless vintage and veteran cars brought over from their museum in
Porsche GT3 Infineon Cup cars
The name Porsche is synonymous with some of the finest
innovative auto engineering that the world has ever seen. Mention the electric
hub motors in the Lunar Lander and you can also say Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. No,
he did not design the craft sent into space to crawl over the surface of the
moon, but he invented the electric hub motor system in around 1902 (the
For me, nothing demonstrates more that racing improves the
breed, than the 911 series Porsche vehicles. Released in 1968 as a two litre
rear engined fast-back style two door sports car, the basic design has been
steadily improved upon, drawing heavily upon racing experience to introduce the
new engineering from the race cars into the road vehicles. Porsches are vehicles
to ‘drive’ not just to be seen in, or park outside your favourite
restaurant. Having owned one Porsche and raced another two, I can state from
personal experience that these are vehicles like no other.
The Porsche Carrera Cup, a one make series, began in 1990
using Porsche Carrera vehicles. 14 years later the Porsche Carrera Cup has
become not only world class, but is now one of the support races for the Formula
1 circus. In the last two years, the Porsche Carrera Cup has also come to Asia,
with a travelling circus going to Malaysia, Korea, China, Macau and Thailand.
of the newer 911 Carrera variants is called the GT3. Be prepared to dig deep for
one of these, as with the governmental import (impost!) you will need more than
12 million baht in the piggy bank. I can assure you that these are fine motor
cars – but there is another variant of the GT3. This is the GT3 Cup racecar.
This is a fine example of taking something that was already superb and making it
that much better.
Mind you, when you lay out your EUR 105,900 to buy your one,
excluding tax and ex factory, you don’t even get a passenger seat. The Porsche
Carrera Cup cars are designed to do one thing only. Win races.
The body shell for a Carrera Cup racer is designated as that,
as it comes down the assembly line. Additional welding takes place to increase
the stiffness even more, and a steel roll cage is incorporated at that stage.
The wheels are 18 inches in diameter and are 9 inches wide at the front and 11
inches wide at the rear and shod with Michelin racing rubber.
The engines are all 3.6 litre water cooled boxer
(horizontally opposed) six cylinders pumping out 390 BHP at 7,300 RPM. These are
not, however, highly tuned ‘finicky’ engines, but ones that the Asian series
vehicle maintenance manager Eddie Koay told me will run for two years before
they are looked at, and only then as a preventive plan, not because they have
reached the end of their life span. Racing certainly does improve the breed.
Much attention to detail is paid to the actual bodywork
itself, with extensive use of carbon-fibre used for the rear engine cover and
doors fitted with thin perspex windows. The very dominant rear wing has a seven
position adjustment range so the teams can set up their cars to suit the
characteristics of the circuits for high downforce or for high speed. The seat
is a special race seat with fire retardant upholstery, though the car is also
fitted with an on-board fire extinguishing system.
The mechanical specifications are such that all Porsche Cup
GT3’s are identical. Not only is it a one-make series, but it is a very
tightly controlled series where all vehicles have the same performance. At the
rounds I attended, there were no mechanical maladies, but the mechanics were
kept busy repairing some close encounters of the accidental kind! The racing is
certainly close and cut-throat.
Thai racing drivers have embraced the Porsche Infineon
Carrera Cup Asia, with Nattavude narrowly being beaten into second place last
year in the series. The business world has also realized the benefits of racing,
and the Thai entrepreneur Bill Heinecke (the fastest pizza delivery in the East)
is now one of the regulars.
However, to show the importance of the GT3 and the Carrera
Cup, one of the other drivers for the series this year is none other than H.E.
Sontaya Khunplome, the advisor to the prime minister.
If you would like to join the Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup
Asia you can contact Ian Geekie, email:[email protected] net.my or you can contact the
factory at Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche, Aktiengesellschaft, Sales – Special and
Motorsport cars, Porschestrasse, 71287 Weissach, Germany. Oh yes, you will also
need your deposit of EUR 15,000 due when the order is signed. If you are looking
for the driver, I am available!
Last week, I wrote about the first international motor race
in the UK which was won by a Mercedes. I asked who was driving it? The event was
the 1903 Gordon Bennett Trophy race and it was won by Camille Jenatzy driving a
Mercedes. The event was held in Ireland over 320 miles and Jenatzy won at an
average speed of 49.2 miles per hour! Not bad for 1903!
So to this week. 100 mph (160 kph in the new money) for 24
hours is a fairly outstanding average. Which car was the first to do it, and
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected]