Do we have too many categories?
As 2006 looms ever closer, I have been rather taken
aback by the plethora of single seater categories, most trying hard to
be the next ‘stepping stone’ to Formula 1. Start counting –
there’s A1GP, there’s the GP Masters (for the past use by date
drivers), there’s GP2 (where Nico Rosberg came from), Formula
Nippon, Formula Renault (where Raikkonen came from before he had his
personality surgically removed), Formula Ford, F3, Formula BMW,
Indycar and so it goes on. All of them cost a king’s ransom and all
of them need drivers with personal fortunes, or managers that can scam
the money out of sponsors, that being an art form in
Probably the first thing we have to get our heads
around is that, like it or hate it, F1 is still the top rung, the
pinnacle. It may have stupid rules at times, it may have certain
groups making blind fortunes out of it, but it is still the top
category (even if some of the drivers are not).
Being a dyed in the wool racer, I admit I will
watch anything going round and round, even if it has a lawn mower
engine (and there is a class for them too) but every class out there
really dilutes the chance of TV coverage. It is this single item that
I believe determines whether any particular class will be a success in
the world market.
I had great hopes for A1GP, but its hopeless TV
coverage has meant that the F1 TV crowd sniffed at it, but have
drifted away. Not only was the telecasting poor,
but to offer the viewers the Sunday race on Monday night ….. forget
it. And they have!
I would like to see the GP Masters on the
flickering box too, but any telecasts of this group seem to be closely
guarded secrets. Sure, there were a few column centimeters in the
print media, but for sporting events, nothing beats live film (TV)
Knowing a little about international telecasting,
it runs like this. The TV channels all try to outbid each other to
snaffle the rights from the ‘eager to jack up the price’
promoters. If it is marketable, then the price goes up. And up. So
eventually only major sponsors can grab some air time. Like Coca-Cola,
so Fred’s body shop can forget it. The promoter makes money, the TV
channel sells the advertising time and makes money, while the
competitor is totally forgotten in the mad scramble for the dollars by
people who I consider “hangers on” in motor sport.
This is where I believe the FIA has let us all
down. Instead of working on a master plan to channel the cream of the
drivers into F1, without the clotted cream buying their drives, the
FIA has allowed this plethora of classes to expand, and as the FIA
gets money from them, that means the drivers have to cough up again!
For example, when I received my first international
racing license, I found it was several times more expensive than my
‘national’ license. Why? No real reason other than it was another
opportunity for the FIA to get its hands into my wallet. If I wanted
to move up the ladder, pay for the privilege! The FIA had spoken.
So how can we reverse this cycle? Probably start by making the FIA
the promoters, and not people like Bernie E. Have an FIA master plan
and have drivers follow the progression in increasingly faster cars,
with the top echelon moving upwards, while the also-rans remain at the
level they are best in. Reserve TV coverage rights for F1 and perhaps
one or two other categories only. And control the TV coverage, so that
it is current and high quality. Quality TV coverage of quality drivers
will ensure the popularity of motor sport continues and grows.
Michelin spits the rubber dummy
shortly after the FIA announced that there would be one tyre manufacturer only
in 2008, Michelin announced its withdrawal from F1 at the end of the 2006
Despite being the tyre used by the championship winners
Renault, Michelin will best be remembered as having reduced the US Grand Prix to
a French farce when it supplied tyres that would not withstand the rigors of the
banked turns found at the Indy circuit. This resulted in 14 cars withdrawing and
putting the entire future of F1 racing in America back by several years.
Those difficulties prompted criticism from Max Mosley,
president of the FIA, which Michelin did not appreciate, but were forced to eat
humble pie. However, when the FIA announced the plans for a single tyre
supplier, which by the way, all the F1 teams agreed to, Michelin could see the
‘get out of jail free’ card and announced its retirement.
Chief executive Edouard Michelin said, “This decision is
the result of pro-
found differences between Michelin’s long-standing sporting philosophy and the
way Formula 1 is managed by the regulating authorities, which no longer provide
a clear and sustainable environment to justify long-term investments.”
“For Michelin, leaving Formula 1 in no way represents
abandoning motorsports, to which the Michelin brand has been committed for 117
This leaves Honda, Red Bull, Renault, McLaren and Scuderia Toro Rosso (or is
that Scuderia Tosso Roro?) to negotiate a deal with Bridgestone for 2007, as
Williams and Toyota both ‘defected’ at the end of the 2005 season to use
Bridgestone for 2006. Did they know something the others did not?
Last week I mentioned that steel and aluminium construction
in bodies and chassis is looked upon as something new in the vehicle builders
art, but this is not correct. A steel and aluminium chassis and aluminium
mudguards first came out on a production car in 1900. I asked, what was it? The
answer was a Lanchester.
So to this week. In the 1950’s the big Humber Super Snipes
were known for their quiet opulence. Not quite a Rolls-Royce, but eminently
affordable. However, the manufacturer then decided to get into the fuel miser
stakes and fitted a diesel engine. Who made the diesel?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
[email protected] Good luck!
Formula BMW World Final
probably the most complicated way of finding a champion, with several heats,
re-heats, pre-final and a final, the Formula BMW World Final was (finally)
completed with Marco Holzer (AM-Holzer Motor-sport) the winner of the first ever
Formula BMW World Final and now has a test in a BMW Sauber F1 Team car to look
forward to. The 17 year old, who raced in the 2005 Formula BMW ADAC
Championship, had the perfect weekend winning all his heats, the Pre-Final and
then the all important World Final. Second was Sebastien Buemi (ASL Team
Mcke-Motor-sport) and third Nicolas Hlkenberg (Josef Kaufmann
“I cannot find the words to describe how I feel at the
moment. I came to Bahrain and my goal was to finish in the top ten. I have won
every race I competed in and now I have the opportunity to test the BMW Sauber
F1 Team car! This result is unbelievable and I have realised the greatest dream
of my life. I just want to thank my team and BMW for making this dream come
true,” said a delighted Marco Holzer.
The event, however, finished on a controversial note as it
was Hlkenberg who was first on the road after leading the final from lap
one to the finish. Following the race he was given a ten second penalty that
dropped him down to third. This was due to an incident at the end of lap ten
when the Safety Car pulled off the track. The Stewards ruled he was in breach of
the regulation stating ‘following the withdrawal of the Safety Car and prior
to passing the green flag, the race leader will maintain the pace previously
held by the Safety Car’ by reducing his speed. So the youngsters have already
learned the complexities of the FIA rule book!
The highest placed driver from the Formula BMW Asia group was
Thailand’s representative Robert Boughey who came 15th
after starting 23rd on the grid for the final. Another
stand-out driver from the back was Robert Wickens from Canada who came 6th
from 27th on the grid.
Remember the names Holzer, Hulkenberg, Buemi and Wickens, you
will hear more of them in a few years.
BMW are to be congratulated for having persevered with this category, and I
sincerely hope that local boy James Grunwell might be given the opportunity
to race in this category in 2006.
The “If Only” syndrome
Flicking through a copy of Classic and Sports
Car (a beautiful magazine if you are interested in the older category of cars),
and they had a comparison in prices in some (these days) delectable motor cars.
Did you know that after WW II you could buy a 1937 Mercedes Benz 540 K for just
over 70,000 baht and it is now worth 49 million! Getting a little more recent,
you could buy a Jaguar XK-SS in 1964 for 350,000 baht and now it is worth 46
million baht. In 1953 you could buy lots of old pre-war Bentleys for 13,000
baht. Yes, that’s what a 1927 Bentley fetched in 1953. Today? Well try getting
one for under six million!
Of coursed, not all those cars from yesterday appreciated like those
mentioned above. People bought Jaguar XJ-S types in 1990 for 2.4 million baht,
and today that car is worth 7,000 baht. Yes, you read that correctly, seven
thousand baht only! And if you really wanted to lose money in a hurry, in 1994
you bought a Rolls-Royce Silver Spur. To put it in your garage, you then spent
5.6 million baht. Today you opened the garage doors to find it is now worth a
little over half a million baht. That’s right, about the price of a Honda
Jazz, with no extras!