Belgian GP this weekend

And let us all hope and pray that we see a motor race, and not a procession, such as we saw in Monza!


Spa is a real driver’s circuit, and there is always the threat of rain, which could help bring some drivers forward, and see the ‘power’ drivers slip back somewhat.

The almost nine mile Spa-Francorchamps circuit was the quickest of all the classic road circuits and many would say, the greatest. It used public roads through the mountains of the Ardennes in Southern Belgium and even in the dry was a circuit for which you needed a good set of cojones. In the wet it was only for heroes and as the region is known as ‘The Pisspot of Europe’, races have frequently been held in the wet.

Spa was first used for racing in 1924 and the first Belgian GP was run in 1925, won by Antonio Ascari, father of the double World Champion, Alberto Ascari.

Serious discontent with Spa began after a downpour in the 1966 race caused several crashes, most significantly one involving Jackie Stewart which led to his campaign for improved circuit safety.

In 1983 a new 4.31-mile circuit was built incorporating some of the original track, but with an improved surface and run-off areas. The new Spa, which still includes some public roads, is the longest circuit on the F1 calendar and, many believe, the most challenging.

The GP should be at 7 p.m. Thai time, but as always, check your local feed to confirm this.

What did we learn from the Italian GP?

Well, the first thing we learned was that it was dreadfully dull. When the highlight of the action is Sato and Webber “racing” each other down pit lane with the speed limiters on, this does not say much for the action on the track. Even Raikkonen’s pass on Alonso was not for track position, and Alonso would have been told by his pit to let Raikkonen through as he had one more stop to make. To show the lack of action, Button slipped down from 3rd to 8th and Sato from 4th to 16th and was never passed by anyone on the track. It was all done in the pits. Yawnnnnnn!

Mark Webber is starting to become involved in too many accidents for it to be ‘accidental’. Another first corner tangle, and he gave away all chances of a points finish, while Pizzonia in the other Williams kept his nose clean and finished 7th. There is a lesson here that the Aussie does not seem to be learning. I will say it again (slowly), “You do not win the race on the first corner, you only lose the race on the first corner!”

Ferrari are even more in the doldrums than ever. Schumi couldn’t get past Barichello, who certainly is not going to move over any more, is he! 2005 is definitely a year that Maranello would like to forget. And so would Bridgestone, who seem not to be making race tyres, but more like mill-stones around the necks of the Ferrari team cars.

Juan Pablo Montoya kept it all together for a change, and pressed on conservatively at the end to see if his damaged tyre would hold up. It did, and he deserved the win, though I could not find too many Montoya fans in the group watching with me.

Is a Chinese Rover really a Rover?

Rover 75

The MG Rover saga is far from dead, with now three Chinese companies in line to pick up the pieces, or some of the pieces anyway. Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC), Nanjing Automotive and Geely Automotive Holdings are apparently all in there, looking for a slice of the action. Who would have ever predicted that “Every Inch a Rover” could end up in Shanghai?

The whole situation is complicated by the fact that apparently SAIC bought the intellectual property of the Rover 25 and the Rover 75, but the use of the name “Rover” in the UK requires an agreement with the former MG Rover owner, BMW in Germany!

A right proper mess!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week, I mentioned that a very high performance American two door coupe featured a cartoon character and a crazy horn. It was capable of over 300 kph in the track versions, but even the road-going version was capable of 225 kph. I asked what was the cartoon character’s name? It was the Road Runner, that wild muscle car from Plymouth with the wing, that did zero to 100 kph in 4.9 seconds 35 years ago! Powered by a 7 litre Hemi, the racing models would top 300 kph. They were outlawed in 1971!

So to this week. An easy one. A Scandinavian car had its body made in Scotland and the rest put together in England to share the assembly line with the Big Healey’s. Where in Scotland was this plant, and what was the car?

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

Good luck!

RAAT meeting at Bira

Last weekend was also the RAAT meeting at the Bira Circuit in Chonburi. The events included many of the “Run what you brung” category, which had huge fields and lots of novice drivers. When I say it was run what you brung, that included a hero in a Honda Jazz, who was going round the outside of everyone. There were also events for Mitsubishi Evos, another for Subarus (I did suggest to the organizers that mixing those two categories would be fun, but the entry list exceeded the capacity of the track). For the VW fans, there was a VeeDub only category, complete with a number 53 Herbie look-alike. There was also a wild Type 3, complete with Weber carburettor and a turbocharger. Not quite how it left Wolfsburg.

Local hero-in-the-making is James Grunwell, who I have mentioned before. Still too young to have a road license, but going very well on the track. He set a new fastest lap in qualifying in the Concept I class, and was set to take the win in the race, until given a helping hand into the shrubbery, which took off James and three other cars. This is one lesson in racecraft that James will now have learned. In a longer race you can take the time to plan your moves. You only do ‘desperates’ on the last lap!

The next RAAT meeting is on the 8th and 9th of October.

Thai debut for Mitsubishi’s new Triton pickup truck

On August 26 2005 Mitsubishi Motors Corporation announced the release on the Thailand market of the new “Triton” 1-ton pickup truck. Replacing the current Strada after a full redesign, the new Triton pickup is assembled at Mitsubishi Motors’ local facility in Laem Chabang, Thailand. Following the Thai launch, the company plans to start shipping this pickup model to other countries and regions, and thus, it is expected to play a major role in terms of the company’s global market strategy and of achieving the Mitsubishi Motors Revitalization Plan.

Triton has been developed as a global strategic model to the following three key concepts: 1 To fully satisfy user needs in terms of pickup economy, durability and reliability; 2 To offer levels of quality that further raise and consolidate the standing of the Mitsubishi Motors brand on a global scale; 3 To accommodate the needs of a broad customer base not limited to commercial use.

The major features that distinguish the new Triton pickup are: An original and stylish exterior/interior design that adds a sporty dash to pickup toughness; packaging that provides a best-in-class roomy interior living space; and suspension and interior appointments that realize sedan levels of comfort and ride. These elements serve both to highlight the originality and advanced qualities Triton brings to the pickup segment and also to eliminate the commonly held image of a pickup being a vehicle design purely for commercial use. As such, these characteristics are expected to make a major contribution in expanding the customer base for Mitsubishi brand pickup trucks.

Triton models are powered by a newly-developed common rail direct injection diesel engine that delivers high outputs while returning low consumption, clean emissions and quiet operation. Other customer-winning features include a new body with top-rating crashworthiness in the class and a Dakar Rally-honed four-wheel drive system that delivers outstanding all-surface performance. The attractive design and go-anywhere component specification puts the Triton next-generation pickup ahead of the market in all aspects of performance, claims the automaker.

I think it does look rather good, compared to most other pick-ups, but will the average buyer agree? Only time will tell.

Gasohol is Go for January 1 2007

The Thai government has decreed that from January 1 2007, there will be no 95 octane, but rather it will be Gasohol 95 from that date. Shell have said they will be ready, prepared to spend many millions to have the pumps and supplies ready, and are also guaranteeing that it is safe to use. I believe it will be, but despite the fact that it will be 1.50 baht cheaper per litre, since it is not as efficient a fuel, you will probably find you use more, thereby cancelling out any presumed “savings”

More on the “new” Chonburi circuit

Have been asking around and the general consensus is that it will not happen, despite the fact that it is being pushed by Sontaya Khunplome, the ex-minister of tourism and sport. Khun Sontaya has been driving in the Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia all this year and has been enjoying himself in the amateur class, rather than setting the tracks on fire.