Automania

French GP this weekend

The Magny Cours Circuit has an interesting history. In the mid-eighties, an initiative by President Mitterand saw the Circuit Jean Behra near Nevers updated and modernised and renamed the Circuit Nevers Magny-Cours. The circuit had begun life as a small kart track, started by Magny-Cours’ mayor, Jean Bernigaud. The kart circuit grew into a proper track which was inaugurated on May 1, 1961; ten years later, it was lengthened from two kilometres to 3.85 km.

In those ten years, Magny-Cours had become home to Tico Martini’s racing car company and France’s first race driving school. The decision in 1986 to upgrade the circuit to Grand Prix standards saw Guy Ligier move his Formula One team to the circuit and the new track was opened in 1989. Two years later, it hosted its first Grand Prix, and the French GP has remained there ever since.

After the idiocy that was the US Grand Prix, the bunch of ‘prix’ that run certain teams might have seen some sense by now, and we might get a motor race again. One thing is for sure, if they pull another stunt like the last one, they can forget about F1. The American GP lunacy gave Ferrari 18 points on a plate. Did they think Ferrari would hand them back? A win, is a win, is a win! Just the same way that Alonso happily took his 10 points when Raikkonen’s car shook itself to bits while comfortably leading on the last lap of the European GP.

The French GP starts at a sensible hour for us - 7 p.m.
The current points are now as follows:
Driver points
1 F Alonso (Spain) 59
2 K Raikkonen (Finland) 37
3 M Schumacher (Germany) 34
4 R Barrichello (Brazil) 29
5 J Trulli (Italy) 27
6 N Heidfeld (Germany) 25
7 M Webber (Australia) 22
8 R Schumacher (Germany) 20
9= G Fisichella (Italy) 17
9= D Coulthard (UK) 17
11 J-P Montoya (Colombia) 16
12 F Massa (Brazil) 7
13= A Wurz (Austria) 6
13= T Monteiro (Portugal) 6
15= J Villeneuve (Canada) 5
15= N Karthikeyan (India) 5
17= C Klien (Austria) 4
17= P De La Rosa (Spain) 4
17= C Albers (Holland) 4
20 P Friesacher (Austria) 3
21 V Liuzzi (Italy) 1
Constructor Standings
Pos Team Points
1 Renault 76
2= Mclaren 63
2= Ferrari 63
4= Toyota 47
4= BMW-Williams 47
6 Red Bull 22
7 Sauber 12
8 Jordan 11
9 Minardi 7

The racing press has been all excited about BMW buying a large chunk of Sauber, so it will have more control over its destiny than they were having with Williams. This was one of the worst kept secrets of 2005, but it is interesting to ponder on what engines Williams will use next year, and they have probably got quite a choice. BMW would like to be in the back of the Williams cars again, giving them two bites at the cherry, but both Toyota and Cosworth could be there as well. We shall see.


Peregrinations in a Pink Porsche

Back in my previous life I owned a Porsche 911. Please note, that after you sell a Porsche, you are for ever afterwards “between” Porsches, rather than saying lamely that you can’t afford one anymore. Right now, I regret to say I am between Porsches.

Where I lived in Oz (Queensland), the capital is called Brisbane and was best described as the largest country town in the world. A sort of Antipodean version of Nakhon Ratchasima. Porsches were as plentiful as rocking horse poo, so for my first Porsche I had to go 1000 km to Sydney (New South Wales).

My brief was simple. I wanted a low mileage 911 Targa that had not been used to derail the Brisbane to Sydney Express train, it had to have the 2.4 litre engine, the manual 5 speed gearbox and painted black.

There was a choice of 10 cars that came close to my specifications on the ring-around, so we flew down and began the short list selection. Selling cars seems to bring out the liar in everyone, Porsche owner or otherwise. “Pristine unmarked Duco” turned out to have more runs on board than the late Sir Donald Bradman scored in a lifetime. I began to be able to spot collapsed timing chain tensioners at 50 paces. And second-hand Porsches seemed to attract more than their fair share of clumsy parkers. Clumsy repairs were everywhere.

Relentlessly we narrowed the field, until there was just one car that fitted all the specs - except for one slight parameter. It was not Midnight Black - it was a weird hot nipple pink! What’s worse, it was an original hot nipple pink, ex-factory, that had been ordered in that colour from Stuttgart. If you do not believe me, check with the Porsche agents for the factory pink colour available in 1973.

Reluctantly the deal was done, but I couldn’t stomach the thought of driving the pink creation 1000 kays back to Brisbane. The ‘Homecoming Queen’ would have nothing on this! I put it on a transporter, rang my panel shop and ordered enough litres of Midnight Black to paint a battleship, and told them the car would be delivered on the Tuesday morning. And yes, please start right away, before anyone sees it!

On Tuesday afternoon I received a call from the panel shop, “Where’s this bloody pink Porsche then?” said the painter, “I’ve got the effing paint ready to go.” I rang the transport company who said they had dropped the car off that morning. More frantic calls until I finally tracked it down, delivered to the wrong panel shop, 25 kilometres away.

I took an expensive taxi over and claimed the expensive car. My face was as pink as the paint as I got in, quite sure I could hear mutterings like “poofter” from the local lads all waiting for me fire it up. I drove to the correct panel shop wearing wrap-around sunglasses and a paper bag over my head, but while driving I began to notice that from inside, safely behind the wheel, you couldn’t see the colour of the bodywork. By the time I had done the 25 clicks it was too late. It would have taken a crowbar to get me out from behind the wheel.

This was not the right time to leave the car for painting. I told the panel shop to store the 20 litres of Midnight Black for me, and when I was ready I would bring the car in and the colour change could be done. I really did mean it. Shortly after I had discovered that there was one shade of Max Factor lady’s pink nail polish that was the exact colour, and stone chips were expertly attended to by the local nails lady. I even used to keep a bottle in the glove box! I also found out that a Porsche is a head turning motor car - and a pink one doubly so!

Three years later, when I sold it, I threw in the black paint with the deal, and the new owner was very appreciative, telling me he was going to get it done in a couple of weeks. Two years later I would still see a pink Porsche in the supermarket on Saturdays. Now many years later, I am sure it is still pink!


Another “genuine” car for sale

As many of you know, I have a soft spot for Daihatsu Mira’s as they make much sense in the clogged roads of Thailand. This particular Mira I know very well, being currently owned for the past two years by a friend of mine. This Mira has a most interesting history. It was bought to be used as a rental car in 1998, but before the owner registered the company, he died suddenly, and this Mira and three others were stored for the next four years, all with delivery kilometers only.

After all the legal machinations were over (the purchaser was not a Thai so everything was going back and forth overseas), the vehicle was then purchased by another friend of mine. It was fully checked at that time, needing a new battery, four tyres (they had perished), all fuel and brake lines flushed, air-conditioner regassed and given a full service. So it was four years old on paper, with almost zero kilometers.

He used it for 12 months and sold it with 10,000 kays on the clock to another friend of mine who has used it for two years, and the car has now done 38,000 km and has been fully maintained. It is now theoretically seven years old, but has only been driven for three!

The interior is like new, it drives like new, it has a couple of minor bumps (motorcycles) on one door that he has never bothered fixing (and neither would I).

Good Mira’s are like gold these days as everyone wants one, but most are getting too long in the tooth and the kays too high. This is an opportunity to get an “almost new” Mira which will give excellent service for a few years yet (mine has 115,000 kays and has been on the road for a real seven years and is completely reliable).

The asking price is 140,000 baht and it is worth it. The ideal “city” car or second car for “her indoors”. It is in Pattaya, and if you are interested contact me through the Chiangmai Mail.


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week, I asked what is the name of this vehicle? And what horsepower does it churn out? It was the Bandag Bullet, the fastest diesel truck in the world. It develops 2,800 BHP and does the standing 400 metres in 12 seconds!

So to this week. V8’s were not a popular configuration in Germany. The first appeared in 1931. What was the company that produced it?

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

Good luck!