Automania

Lanna Car Club first Sunday run successful

(Report from David Hardcastle) There was a really good turn out for the first real driving event since last year’s Chiangrai Weekend!

On January 29 no fewer than nine classics assembled at the home of Daniel and Kelly near Wat Umong, and no fewer than 22 adults and five children enjoyed their excellent tea, coffee, cake and fruit hospitality before setting out on the circular route. (Two members and one probable new member had ‘modern’ cars which had better be nameless!).

The lovely Samoeng Loop did us proud and the only clutch to suffer from one of the serious hill-climbs was the pre-war Fiat 1100 of new member Khun Rung. But a tow rope on loan from absent member Phil Harris got the car out of immediate hazard. In the true spirit of the club, everyone stopped to help and the car was safely retrieved later while we all enjoyed a very good value buffet lunch at the Green Valley Golf Club. Many thanks to Ian for organising that!

Khun Rung’s very original car was one of two “new” Fiats in the club and we were also graced by the presence of Khun Kittyboon and his wife in their accessory-rich red VW Beetle (instead of the usual Mini); a stately Austin 12 driven by Khun Narong and the clean green 105E Ford Anglia of American expat and former street rodder Cleve Reinhard.

The next Sunday run is to Phrao and the Mae Gnat Dam on February 26 – and an appeal for fewer steep hills has been heeded!

This is our next destination, with lunch at the peaceful restaurant at the end of the lake. It’s been suggested we assemble to start at the Sai Nam Pheung Orchid Farm opposite the Four Seasons Resort, Mae Rim. It’s on the right side of town and we can inspect their varied collection of classics over coffee! Directions in the mail before the date, but again we need to know numbers (of people not cars!) as soon as possible, so please call David or Noy on 01 992 4819 or 06 911 6869 soonest to book yourselves in.


All-Japanese line-up for new F1 team

Sato

The new (and hastily cobbled together) Super Aguri F1 team has finally confirmed its 2006 driver line-up with Takuma Sato and Yuji Ide, another Japanese compatriot, taking the two race-seats.

Since the inception of the team, reports have been doing the rounds suggesting that not only would team boss Aguri Suzuki sign Sato as his number one driver but he would also opt for an all-Japanese line-up. Those reports have now proven to be true.

Sato, who was dropped by BAR (now called Honda) at the end of last season, is delighted to have the chance to race for the team in its debut F1 season, and to maintain his association with Honda, particularly since he has blown up more Honda engines than anyone on the planet.

“Everyone at Super Aguri has done a great job to make the team happen in such a short period of time (they are using three year old Arrows chassis’). I am extremely excited to be working with the team and especially with Aguri-san who has achieved huge success in motor- sport,” said Sato.

The second driver, Ide, who was runner up in the 2005 Formula Nippon Series, will be making his F1 debut in what he says will be a “very exciting and challenging” year for him self and the Super Aguri team.

“I would like to thank Suzuki-san for giving me the opportunity to drive in Formula One. I drove an F1 car for the first time yesterday and I was nervous, but very excited. The car is powerful!”

Team boss Suzuki added, “I am grateful that these highly experienced drivers are joining my team. Although I expect a tough year as it is our first in Formula One, with these two drivers I will put all my efforts into creating a positive outcome.”

Considering they are going to be running ‘old’ cars and second-string Honda engines, there will be a new name at the tail of the field. The biggest problem for the top teams will however be Sato. Trying to get past without getting a helping hand into the guard rails!


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned there was a vehicle built in the USA which you could buy with amphibious drive gear as an optional extra. I asked what was its name? It was called the Monocoque Box, which had a transverse 1.6 litre Honda engine running Keihin carburetion (and sounds like an enlarged version of the Honda CBR engine), four wheel drive, two seats and a front opening door. It looked very much like a box too!

So to this week. From which country did the mechanicals for the first Morris Cowleys (1915-1919) come? This one is easy!

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


Thailand’s Car of The Year (COTY) awards

I was out at the Bira Circuit last weekend while they were testing the contenders for the COTY awards. The cars were lumped into various categories, with judges drawn from places such as Chulalongkorn University.

For me, three cars stood out. The newly released Yaris, which looks very much like an A Series Mercedes Benz from the side (at one third of the price), the new Honda Civic which looks better and better every time I see one, and the new Mazda MX5 which still has managed to look like the first one, but incorporating the aggressive looks around the wheel arches of the RX8.


Formula V6 Asia by Renault

David Sonenscher (left) and Jean Paul Mari

Asian motor racing gained another formula last week, with the announcement in Hong Kong of the launch of Formula V6 Asia by Renault, a brand new series set to change the face of the sport in the region and massively increase the odds of Asian racers reaching Formula One.

For the first time, Southeast Asian-based drivers will be able to progress from karting, through the ranks of junior single seaters, such as Formula BMW, and step up to a program specifically designed to groom them for the pinnacle of international motorsport - Formula One. Speaking at the launch, Malaysian-based Motorsport Asia’s Chief Executive Officer David Sonenscher (himself an ex-Asian open wheel racing champion) said he believes both the concept behind the series, and the timing of its introduction, are good news for the sport: “Until now, drivers reaching that crucial point in their careers where they have successfully mastered junior single seater racing and are ready to take the next step have had to move to Europe to do so. This can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for several reasons such as cost, on-going education, or their sponsor’s reluctance to follow them outside Asia. Formula V6 Asia by Renault will give these drivers a chance to develop in the very highest category of single seater racing below Formula One without leaving the region. It puts a whole new face on the sport here in Asia, will give a far greater number of our drivers a realistic shot at Formula One, and I am sure will encourage a lot more youngsters to consider motorsport as a career.”

France-based Renault Sport Technologies’ Motor Sport and Communications Director, Jean Paul Mari, also in Hong Kong for the launch, said, “I am convinced that this is a genuine opportunity to develop motorsport in this part of the world and to create a real driver development programme leading to Formula One. The Asian market now needs a top-of-the-range single seater category to meet the expectations of drivers moving across from Formula BMW, Formula Renault and Formula 3. The car has all the necessary features: carbon fibre structure and HANS (Head and Neck Support System), left-foot braking, carbon brakes and steering wheel-mounted sequential gearshift.”

The car, which can reach top speeds of up to 275kph, is powered by a 370 bhp, 3.5 liter 24 valve V6 engine, and is equipped with “ship to shore” radio, electronic-display steering wheels and data acquisition. All cars will use Michelin Radial tyres.

The provisional calendar for the inaugural Formula V6 Asia by Renault season will be comprised of 12 rounds at six venues, beginning at Malaysia’s state-of-the-art Sepang International Circuit on April 15-16. From there, the series will form part of the Asian Festival of Speed (AFOS) weekend at South Korean’s new race facility at Ansan on May 13-14, before returning to Sepang for a further two rounds on June 24-25. The second of the three AFOS events the series will join is at Indonesia’s Sentul Circuit on July 22-23, followed by two rounds at Zhuhai International Circuit on August 12-13. The final two rounds will be held as part of the AFOS weekend at a second new race track in Taichung, Taiwan on October 21-22. Unfortunately, Thailand misses out on this formula, but perhaps next year?


New Lexus ES packs more power, options

Lexus ES 350

Automotive News in the US has given the new entry-level Lexus the thumbs up after its release at the Chicago motor show this month. The 2007 Lexus ES 350 lands in dealerships in April, packing an impressive array of technology for a near-luxury car.

According to Automo- tive News, even the motor mounts, a common off the shelf item for most automakers, are high-tech. The mounts have electronic solenoids that reduce vibration when the engine is started.

The front wheel drive ES 350, which replaces the ES 330, is a softer, smoother, quieter sedan aimed at an older crowd than the IS. Though the car is based on the underpinnings of the Toyota Avalon, the ES 350’s styling has a family resemblance to other Lexus
sedans, however the power-train, interior and suspension tuning are unique to the ES 350.

Some of the ES 350’s technical highlights include a six-speed automatic transmission, a first for a front wheel drive car from Toyota, and a 272-hp, aluminum, 3.5 liter V6 that has variable valve timing, delivers 0 to 100 kph performance in less than seven seconds and gets an estimated 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the high- way. Other techo items are Antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, plus stability and traction control.

Optional equipment includes a three-panel glass roof, radar-based adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing windshield wipers and a parking-assist system that warns the driver when the car gets too close to an object.

At this stage the Lexus ES 350 is only being produced in left hand drive, but if the car is popular, Toyota will reconsider this. To my eye, the car is somewhat drab, and brings to mind a two year old Camry design, but it will be interesting to see it in the flesh.