No GP this week

The ecstatic Renault team

The next GP for the Eff Wun circus will be in Australia on April 2. After two rounds (Bahrain and Malaysia) it is still anybody’s title, with Renault, Ferrari, McLaren and Honda being the top runners at this point.

So what did we learn from the MalaysianGP?

Well, the first thing we learned was that there are quite a few hand grenades out there, pretending to be V8 race engines. BMW have exploded two in two meetings, Ferrari have changed two in two meetings, Williams exploded one last meeting, Red Bull have exploded another, Toyota ditto – and so the list goes on. The new V8s seem to rev spectacularly, and some of them seem to have an enormous power band (pulling strongly from 10,000 RPM right the way through to 19,000).

If it isn’t the engine going out to lunch, then it seems to be the hydraulics that fail. Coulthard and Webber both retiring from this malady. I actually find it hard to understand hydraulic failure, as we have been dealing with hydraulics on cars for over 50 years. Or perhaps “hydraulic failure” is today’s excuse, similar to the “electrical problems” cited when I was running race cars. Reason for stopping? Electrical failure (the conrod knocked the ignition cap off as it exited from the right hand side of the engine block!)

Young Rosberg is certainly quick, but his attempts to shove his team mate out of the way just resulted in Alonso saying “Thank you” and driving right around the outside. He may be quick, but he has a lot to learn.

Jenson Button? Second on the grid in the Honda, third at the end, but seems to lack fire in the mid-race period. A car problem? A Button problem? And his team mate, Rooby Baby is now admitting he can’t come to grips with the car. This is amazing. A professional race car driver who has been driving this year’s car for two months, and still can’t come to grips with it. Perhaps the Ferrari was easier to drive? Or perhaps he ran with Schumacher’s settings?

Ferrari did not impress in Malaysia. A fifth and a sixth keeps them in the points, but meagerly only. Protests against the flexibility of the wings are sitting on the back burner, after Ferrari said they would fix the flex by Melbourne in two weeks. But remember, never write off Michael Schumacher!

Renault? What can you say other than impressive. No exploding engines, obviously not lacking in the grunt department, well set up cars and a good driver pairing. Alonso is obviously hungry for the 2006 world championship, and if he continues to drive in the faultless manner he has of late, will be a shoe-in for the title. However, Fisichella deserved his win, and his pole position, and don’t believe the line that the team inadvertently overfilled Alonso’s car for qualifying. The team knows down to the last drop how much goes in, and how much the car is carrying, with all their telemetry. “Accidentally” overfilled! My bottom!

Seems as though Klien is Kaptain Kaos for 2006, while Sato can’t get the (not very Super) Aguri to go fast enough to do any damage hitting anybody or thing. His team mate Ide? No ide(a) at all.

McLaren had a very subdued weekend, despite all the ‘upbeat’ words from the Ronster. Raikkonen was also strangely quiet and accepting, after being punted of by Kaptain Kaos. That operation to remove his personality was certainly very extensive.

Final Entry List 2006 MotoGP World Championship

The FIM (the two wheeled version of the FIA) has announced the official entries for the MotoGP championship for 2006.

Valentino Rossi

Note that the riding number does not correspond with the position in last year’s championship. Many riders being superstitious, do not want to change their number, consequently you get the undisputed champion Valentino Rossi riding under number 46. (Will he race a Ferrari under that Number? Answer – No! The FIA insists that the number refers to the position in last year’s championship.)

The entries are

5. Colin Edwards (USA) Camel Yamaha Team, Yamaha

6. Makoto Tamada (JPN) Konica Minolta Honda, Honda

7. Carlos Checa (SPA) Tech3 Yamaha, Yamaha

10. Kenny Roberts (USA) Team Roberts, KR211V

15. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Ducati Marlboro Team, Ducati

17. Randy de Puniet (FRA) Kawasaki Racing Team, Kawasaki

21. John Hopkins (USA) Team Suzuki MotoGP, Suzuki

24. Toni Elias (SPA) Fortuna Honda, Honda

26. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team, Honda

27. Casey Stoner (AUS) Honda LCR, Honda

30. Jose Luis Cardoso (SPA) Pramac D’Antin MotoGP, Ducati

33. Marco Melandri (ITA) Fortuna Honda, Honda

46. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Camel Yamaha Team, Yamaha

56. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Kawasaki Racing Team, Kawasaki

65. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Ducati Marlboro Team, Ducati

66. Alex Hofmann (GER) Pramac D’Antin MotoGP, Ducati

69. Nicky Hayden (USA) Repsol Honda Team, Honda

71. Chris Vermeulen (AUS) Team Suzuki MotoGP, Suzuki

77. James Ellison (GBR) Tech3 Yamaha, Yamaha.

The country with the greatest representation is Spain with five entries, followed by the USA with four, Italy with three, Japan and Australia two each and singleton entries from France, Germany and the UK.

Blue Oval unveiled the new Ranger ahead of its Bangkok show debut

The Down-under media have become excited by Thailand’s Ford Ranger pick-up series. Known as the ‘Courier’ in many countries, the Thai-built vehicles are important as far as Thai exports are concerned, as well as to the financial viability of Ford Motor Corp in this country. With FoMoCo in trouble in the US, it is even more important that the company trades in the black overseas.

Ford Ranger/Courier

GoAuto reported Ford had revealed a redesigned Courier pick-up on the eve of its global debut at Bangkok’s International Motor Show opening.

Bigger, more aggressive and featuring two new common-rail four-cylinder turbo-diesel engines, the Blue Oval’s crucial new light commercial contender goes on sale in Australia late this year.

The reveal of Ford’s all-new Ranger/Courier – revealed in both single-cab and extra-cab 4x4 guises, the latter complete with reverse-opening rear doors - completes the new-generation model cycle for all of Australia’s Thailand-built pickups.

Holden (GM’s manufacturing and sales arm in Australia) was the first to release its big, bold new RA Rodeo (in March 2003) and in January launched an Alloytec V6-powered version, while Toyota followed with an even more brazen seventh-generation HiLux in April 2005.

Nissan’s Spanish-built D40 dual-cab Navara is the sole exception to Australia’s Thai-built LCVs and was launched in Australia in November 2005 (and continues to be sold alongside its D22 predecessor), while Mitsubishi’s all-new Triton dual-cab has also broken cover and will arrive down-under mid-year with 3.2-litre diesel and 3.5-litre petrol power.

Ford-controlled Mazda also revealed its next-generation, Ranger-based B-Series LCV.

Ford’s new Ranger, as it’s known in Thailand and the US, closely follows the design theme laid down by the Blue Oval’s 4-Trac concept revealed at December’s Thailand International Motor Expo. That vehicle was styled in part by former Ford Australia designer Paul Gibson, who now heads up Ford’s Asia-Pacific design centre.

Presenting strong visual links with Ford’s bigger F-Series – America’s top-selling pickup for the past 29 years – the new Ranger/Courier brings the sort of distinctive styling and imposing dimensions Ford needs to compete with the likes of Rodeo, HiLux, Navara and Triton.

Courier’s popularity has been waning behind that of the new HiLux, the three-year-old Rodeo, the evergreen Triton and even its Mazda Bravo twin. Last year Courier claimed just 4.5 per cent of the two-wheel drive pick-up market with 3551 sales.

Courier fared much better in 4x4 guise, however, attracting 4053 sales and 6.5 per cent of the Pickup Cab-chassis 4x4 segment, to rank behind HiLux, Rodeo, Navara, LandCruiser and Triton.

“The light truck market is one of the hottest segments in Australia and this new model will ensure Ford remains at the forefront of this important market,” said Ford Australia president Tom Gorman in a release issued last Wednesday.

According to Ford, two new 16-valve DOHC turbo-diesel fours (a 2.5 litre and a more powerful 3.0 litre) will significantly improve Courier’s towing capacity, which will be rated at up to 3000kg.

Both Duratorq TDCi engines feature new generation high pressure Bosch common-rail fuel injection and a variable geometry turbocharger to combine best-in-class torque outputs with low fuel consumption.

The 2.5 delivers around 107 kW and 330 Nm of torque from just 1800rpm – yet is claimed to consume 22 per cent less fuel than Courier’s current 2.5 litre WLT diesel engine.

The all-new 3.0 litre version delivers around 116 kW and 380 Nm and is also mated to a five-speed manual transmission. There is no mention of an auto.

Of course, Ford makes much of the Ranger’s muscular new look, which comes courtesy of a 60 mm higher waistline, bold wheel arch flares and a distinctive three-bar grille design that’s integrated with a bulging bonnet.

A stylish, sedan-like interior contrasts with the Ranger’s “tough truck” exterior and features a three-cluster instrument panel, a bright chrome centre console housing an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, ergonomically designed seats and the usual array of storage locations - including an 8.1-litre glovebox, five cupholders and an industry-first work tray that pulls out from the instrument panel.

Ford says the new Ranger’s more rigid ladder frame chassis improves handling, while tougher and more durable suspension is claimed to improve ride quality.

Ground clearance gains have also been made and Ford says Ranger’s steering has been “optimized for easy handling at low speeds and firmer steering at highway cruising speeds”.

While Ford Australia was less bold, the FoMoCo press release says Ranger aims to set new standards for a one-tonne pick-up in terms of engine performance, fuel economy, passenger comfort, safety features, drivability, towing capacity and affordability.

Standard anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), twin front airbags and outboard seatbelt pretensioners will be complimented by optional side airbags – a segment first.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I wrote that 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. I asked, what was this car? It was the Group 6, 936 Porsche.

So to this week. Let’s stick with Porsche. Which Porsche driver in the Targa Florio put a wheel off the road and damaged a radius rod. He walked back to the pits to be asked, “Is that what broke, or is it all that’s left?” Clue, He was English.

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

Good luck!