All-Japanese line-up for new F1 team
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!
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
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
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.