What did we learn from the
Imola Grand Prix?
Well, the first thing we learned was never, never, never
write off Michael Schumacher. He stuffed up his one lap qualifying, ends up 13th
on the grid and comes second by half a gnat’s knee. Alonso (who did not put a
foot wrong all weekend) deserved his third win of the season, but admitted that
he was powerless against the Ferrari driver’s onslaught. A few more laps,
after catching up with the back markers and he would have been relegated, just
as Jenson Button was a few laps from home. The speed of the new Ferrari, in the
hands of MS, was such that he was lapping one second a lap faster than anyone.
That is an enormous margin, so we could see a fight-back by Schumi for the 2005
crown. The following table shows it all.
01. M. Schumacher Ferrari 1:21.858
02. J. Button BAR 1:22.604
03. A. Wurz McLaren 1:23.023
04. F. Alonso Renault 1:23.113
05. K. Raikonnen McLaren 1:23.296
06. T. Sato BAR 1:23.368
07. V. Liuzzi Red Bull 1:23.488
08. F. Massa Sauber 1:23.602
09. N. Heidfeld Williams 1:23.917
10. J. Villeneuve Sauber 1:24.017
11. J. Trulli Toyota 1:24.022
12. N. Karthikeyan Jordan 1:24.094
13. R. Schumacher Toyota 1:24.230
14. M. Webber Williams 1:24.419
15. R. Barichello Ferrari 1:24.435
16. D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:24.641
17. T. Monteiro Jordan 1:24.719
18. G. Fisichella Renault 1:25.665
19. C. Albers Minardi 1:27.420
20. P. Friesacher Minardi 1:28.334
We also learned, after the race, that Jenson Button’s car
was subjected to six hours of extra scrutineering, as it was suggested that he
might have been running an underweight car for much of the race, but by
(over)topping up with fuel at the last refueling pit stop, he would come in
legal. The stewards of the meeting finally passed the car, but the Federation
Internationale d’Automobile (the FIA and the supreme boss of world motor
sport) has questioned the findings of their own stewards and there will be an
appeal called by the FIA on May 4th, the results of which will mean a mighty
ruckus in the Eff Wun camps, or alternatively much egg on the face for the FIA.
As a spectacle, the race was really just a high speed procession, with
passing manoeuvres only coming about through mistakes by the driver in front
(and I must say that Aussie Mark Webber in the Williams BMW had more than his
fair share). Even Schumacher had problems in the first part of the race, sitting
behind his little brother’s Toyota, apparently unable to pass. He leapfrogged
from 12th to 3rd only during pit stops, when he got some clear air to let the
new Ferrari demonstrate its speed.
The UK motoring scene
Any car enthusiast weeps when they return to Thailand and
look at the plethora of pick-ups, after a spell in the UK, such as the two weeks
I have just had. The Brits are definitely into small cars, both two and four
door variants, and I honestly believe that the Thai government is heading in the
right direction, trying to push the local motoring industry in that direction
Selling well in the UK are GM’s babies, the Daewoo Matiz,
and the differently badged Chevrolet Spark (the vehicle copied by SAIC in China
and sold as the Chery QQ and subject to litigation by GM). In fact, I am led to
believe that the General would be happy to phase out the Daewoo name altogether,
and just use the Chevrolet moniker.
The Ford Ka is another very small vehicle that would help
lessen congestion on Thai roads, though its quirky styling might not make it all
The 1 Series BMW has not sold in great numbers over there,
with the price and that dreadful styling being two obvious reasons. However,
BMW’s Mini range is a top seller over in the UK, despite the price tag. I did
also spot a new 5 Series with the dreadful Bangle bottom that I actually liked.
What they had done was to exaggerate the bum of the car even further, making the
boot into a giant ‘whale tail’ a la Porsches in the mid 70’s. It worked!
The French are still one of the top sellers in the UK, with
the Renaults being very delectable - the new Laguna is fabulously styled, for
GM’s Vauxhall top sellers are the new Astra’s and
Vectra’s. Both of these cars look very good in the sheet metal, with
sculptured ‘edge’ styling being very attractive. In a similar mode, Ford’s
Focus and Mondeo look excellent.
As opposed to Thailand, Toyota does not rule the roost over
there, and none of the Toyota models we are familiar with here, could be spotted
in the UK, despite the names sometimes being the same. The Toyota Corolla in the
UK is a stumpy-tailed, wheel at each corner vehicle (like the Mazda3 here), and
I actually thought it looked very good. The very small Yaris has different
variants, with some looking quite fetching, while others (such as the Yaris
Verso) look dreadful.
However, the prize for the worst looking car of the post-war era must go to
Fiat with its Multipla. A strange box on wheels with frog-eye lights in an obese
stomach roll below the windscreen. Completely hideous. I must add that some of
the Renault Megane’s go close too, especially around the rear!
Last week, I asked what was the connection between the
Peugeot company and Porsche’s 911 series. This was simple. The Porsche was
supposed to be designated as the 901 (in fact the early engine cases even have
this prefix), but Peugeot had reserved all the three number series with a zero
in the middle, so Porsche made their cars into 911’s.
By the way, the previous week’s question of the weight of
Karl Benz’s first vehicle (without driver), which was 265 kg, was correctly
answered first by Dennis P. McGinn of the USS Reuben James, FFG-57.
So to this week. Another easy one. Which racing driver used
to take a record of his national anthem to race meetings, just in case he won
and the organizers didn’t have the music?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected]
Toyota believes in us!
If 37 billion baht buys belief, then Toyota Motor certainly
believes in Thailand. The financial pages of newspapers often give more
information than the motoring ones, and this little gem was one of these. 37
billion will increase Toyota’s output from 350,000 units to 550,000 over the
next two years. This will also make Thailand the third largest plant in the
Toyota empire, after Japan and the USA.
The expansion is mainly to increase the production of the
pick-ups, though some of the other models such as the Wish, Corolla and Vios,
which are also produced here, could be ramped up.
A large percentage of the new production will be for export, with official
forecasts being for 250,000 units, up from the current 150,000.
And so does Nippon Paint
The Eastern Seaboard of Thailand should also see expansion with a new plant
for Nippon Paint (Thailand) which currently has a 34 percent share of the auto
paint market. With the increasing production in this country, and Toyota isn’t
the only one increasing its numbers, Nippon Paint will need to increase its
production to even just maintain its market share. This will apparently cost 1.5
billion baht over the next two years, to double the production.
You don’t have to kick the doors in on your
The person who physically attacked their Honda CRV (and many
copy-cats unhappy with their purchases), will not have to do this any more to
get a response, according to an article in the latest ASEAN Autobiz, written by
Senior Editor Montha Panthong.
Apparently 12 auto companies have got together and formed the
Automotive Quality Diagnostic Committee (AQDC) with Pairoj Sanyadechakul, the
secretary-general of the Office of Industrial standards as the chairman. This
body has on its panel representatives from the government Office of Consumer
Protection (yes there is one in Thailand), the Automotive Institute, the
Federation of Thai Industries as well as representative from the 12 automakers
which includes Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Chevrolet.
Complaints about purchased cars are not new, the Office of
Consumer Protection has received many complaints (2001 - 220, 2002 - 306, 2003 -
568 and in 2004 - 300). The CRV kicker was not alone!
There is now legislation going through to make the
manufacturer disprove any complaints, as opposed to the situation up till now,
where the consumer has to foot the bill to prove his dissatisfaction, but it
stops short of America’s “Lemon Law”. In the US situation, the law states
that if a vehicle within the first 18 months (or 18,000 miles) has had the same
defect repaired four or five times, or the vehicle has been off the road for
repairs totalling 30 days in that period, then it is a “lemon”.