Malaysian GP

The second round of the F1 circus will be held this weekend in Malaysia. The Sepang circuit is 5.542 km around, and the race will be over 55 laps. Malaysia will be as here, hot and humid at this time of year. However, the configuration of the circuit does afford some passing opportunities.

Expect lap times this year to be around 1 min 36 as the new V8 engines and aerodynamic regulations have slowed the cars down, but still have not made it easier to pass. The drivers this year are not worried about how well their tyres might last if they tried demon late-braking, making passing more probable, especially as it comes up to pit stop times.

Starting time? I think it will start at 2 p.m. in Malaysia which is 1 p.m. here, but please check your local TV guide!

I will be watching at Jameson’s Irish Pub, Soi AR next to Nova Park. Why not join me for lunch and that way we can be sure of not missing the start!

What did we learn from the Bahrain GP?

Well, the first thing we learned was on the Saturday while watching qualifying, where Star Sports crossed to a football match, leaving us missing the final and crucial 12 minutes of qualifying. In this current era of boycotts, I would suggest we boycott Star Sports. We watched the race on the South African feed, notable for the better commentators Allen and Brundle and lack of adverts. Altogether a pathetic effort at programming by Star Sports on the Saturday.

However Sunday’s race promises much for the forthcoming 2006 season. It was close, all the way to the final flag, and Alonso deserved his win. This race also showed that you should never write off a certain M. Schumacher. Three different teams on the podium – Renault, Ferrari and McLaren, with Honda in 4th. Williams were also up there, with newcomer Nico Rosberg setting fastest race lap. McLaren and Williams were the only two teams to get both cars into the points.

The race was good with many passing manoeuvres, with young baby-faced Rosberg showing he is sitting on some rather large nest eggs. His three corner side-by-side pass on Coulthard was exceptional.

Massa blotted his copybook on his first race for Ferrari, despite making up the front row beside Schumacher. Quite frankly, he looked out of his depth.

What else? Rooby Baby Barichello showed why he was number two at Ferrari, having taken his position over the Honda as well. The Squadro Toro Rosso cars were brilliant in a straight line, being the only team with V 10s, even though they have been detuned.

Toyota? Nowhere! Another bucket of money will be thrown at the project, believe you me. They cannot see Honda run away. Too much face to be lost there.

Team Super Aguri is a total joke, running four year old Arrows chassis, but neither Sato nor Ide actually managed to hit anything, despite the dire predictions.

The ultimate road-going Ferrari?

The Geneva motor show saw the definitive release of Ferrari’s latest road going coupe – the 599 GTB Fiorano. Make no mistake about it, this car was a show-stopper! Apparently photographs do not do it full justice, according to those who were in Geneva, but from my point of view, it looks stunning, and almost in a “vintage” Ferrari way. Being front (to mid) engined, rather than like their other super-car, the rear engined Enzo, this gives it that ‘beast to be unleashed’ look.

It has so much taken the high performance world by storm, that Ferrai agents all over the world have full order books, despite the fact that the price is still not determined in many countries. For example, Ferrari Australia will launch the car locally at the Sydney International Motor Show in October, but Ferrari Australia boss Kevin Wall is saying, “There will be limited production numbers for Australia this year, but interest is already high. Ferrari owners are very aware of the new models under development and it is fair to say that our order bank for the 599 GTB is already substantial.”

This new GTB (Gran Turismo Berlinetta) is the most powerful production car ever produced by Ferrari, and the 599 GTB is a mobile technological display. These include a V12 engine derived from the Enzo supercar powerplant, an all-aluminium space frame and a trick magneto rheological suspension-control system, in which the viscosity of the damper oil is adjusted by electric current (pioneered by GM in the Corvette as magnetic selective-ride control) to best adapt to road conditions.

Penned by legendary Ferrari designer Pininfarina, the 599 GTB Fiorano is named after the famous Ferrari test track, and replaces the 575M Maranello.

The car derives the 599 figure from the swept volume of the V12 engine, which is 5,990 cc’s. This engine delivers 462kW at 7600rpm and a staggering 608Nm of torque at 5600rpm, giving the car the ability to go from 0-100 kmh in 3.7 seconds on the way to a top speed of 330 kmh.

According to the publicity blurb that the overseas media is happily regurgitating, during development, significant effort was devoted to optimizing sound from the V12 with a decision made early on to focus on the true sound of the engine. To that end, mechanical resonance was reduced in favor of a pure V12 soundtrack from both intake manifold and exhaust system. All that hyperbole probably means this it is bloody noisy inside the cabin, but whatthehell, V12’s sound fantastic anyway. Pure aural sex!

Autotrivia Quiz

quiz car

Last week I asked you to take a look at these fine machines. What is it, and what is it based on? The answer was the Bijaji from Indonesia, and is based on the Piaggi. (I think, though I can stand correcting!)

So to this week. Porsche built a race car which made its debut painted black. It did not do well. It was then painted white and won every race the factory entered it in. What was this car?

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

By the way, a couple of weeks ago I asked about cars with four reverse gears and had many respondents. One was Stuart Penketh, who was a little late, but had some interesting details. Stuart mentioned Various vehicles with four reverse gears, usually trucks and earthmovers, but the one I used to know and love was this one : Messerschmitt KR 200. In 1955, Messerschmitt brought out the KR 200, because a two-stroke engine doesn’t care which way its crankshaft rotates, Fritz Fend (designer) installed a switch in the starter circuits, that would enable the engine to spin backwards. Thus four reverse speeds were available, and some intrepid types even raced them in reverse!

There was another three wheeler : 1968 Velorex (Czechoslovakia), Jawa two cylinder two stroke 350cc displacement, air cooled motorcycle engine with four speed gearbox integral with crankcase, reverse polarity employed to start and run engine in opposite direction enabling four reverse gears through same gearbox, exposed chain drive to single rear wheel. Fabric covered tubular steel frame construction.

Then there was the Italian job: 1979 Fiat Campagnola II - a more militaristic theme, in this thinly disguised Italian knock-off of a Willys Jeep. Finished in full-on Italian military spec (including four reverse gears), the Campagnola (one of Pope John Paul’s favorite ways of touring the crowds gathered at the Vatican).

Would you believe there was a motorcycle also? Zundapp KS 750. The transmission had four gears, four cross country gears and four reverse gears as well. You can only switch the cross country and reverse gears into the first gear. They have a lock in the gear shifting gate.

(Thank you Stuart, most enlightening, Dr. Iain.)

MoShow coming

The Bangkok International Motor Show begins on Friday March 24 and goes through to April 2. This is the accredited motor show for Thailand, being recognized as such by the world motor show body. There will be journalists coming from many countries for this show, including two from Australia who were so impressed last year they are back again for this Bangkok International Motor Show. This is also the 27th running of the show in Bangkok.

The theme this year, and very topical in the light of the increasing oil prices, is Bio-Energy – Reality Power! Expect to see some chaff-burners, peanut oil burners and recycled chip fry on some of the stands.

There will be the new RHD versions of the M Class, SL Class and R Class Mercedes Benz. This is something they have done for the past few years, making Bangkok’s show the world release of the RHD variants.

There will also be new pick-ups from Ford and Mazda, with the new 3 liter engines, which I believe will make them the most powerful in the class.

At motor shows, major manufacturers take the opportunity to present some concept vehicles, as a toe in the water exercise to gage public reaction to them. Toyota have a concept on their stand, as does arch-rival Honda with their FCX.

There are also special events which will be held during the show, including Classic Cars, Mustang club, VW club, Austin Mini Club as well as sports cars and sports aircraft.

The auto sound people will be there, and accessories and motor cycles, so it will take you a good day to walk around. I will be up for Press Day on March 22 and VIP Day on March 23, and will give you full reports over the next couple of weeks. I will also have Alan Coates cover the bikes, as he so kindly did for us last year.

The venue is BITEC, at Km 1 Bangna-Trat Road. There is parking for 20,000 cars if you take your own to the show, otherwise go by Skytrain and take a short taxi ride from the On Nut station.