What did we learn from the Australian GP?

Button becoming unbuttoned

From where I sat and watched the race the general consensus was that Jenson Button still has pimples. At every restart he was convincingly out-thought by anyone who was behind him. Instead of controlling the situation, like Alonso did, JB was left at the line every time. I cannot see Button getting that elusive first win until the field is made up of drivers of the caliber of the (not very) Super Aguri’s Ide.
While in the Honda camp, it must be getting more and more difficult for Rooby Baby to think up a new excuse. The ‘soft’ brake pedal was one he used when at Ferrari. Barichello is becoming a good third driver. It is time that Honda gave Davidson the race seat. There’s someone who can deliver. And is consistently quick, outpacing Button in test sessions between meetings.
Fisichella’s public bollocking by Renault over the team’s radio will not have helped his Italian blood to cool down. To be shouted at that you are two seconds a lap slower than your team mate and this is not acceptable will be a bitter pill to take. Fisi will be ‘for sale’ by the end of the year, and I would not be surprised if the entire Renault F1 team was for sale as well. By contrast, Alonso never put a foot (or wheel) wrong. A mature, well driven race and he deserved the win.
One day Massa will not hit anything, but it looks like that day is quite some way off yet. However, Michael Schumacher also managed to win a wall (comprehensively), leaving several wheelbarrow loads of carbon fiber for the clean-up crews. Ferrari are certainly not out of the woods yet.
Another driver to be given the ‘hurry up’ was Coulthard, who was told he had to pass Scott Speed (great name for a race driver) in the Toro Rosso. I wonder if the reason that it was so imperative was that both teams are owned by Red Bull, and they did not want it to look as if the V10 engined cars were quicker than the V8’s that everyone else has to use. Toro Rosso will have their V10 engines further restricted before the end of the year is another prediction.
Mark Webber was looking strong, but unfortunately the gearbox of his Williams F1 was not. Sir Frank has to get these cars more reliable before Webber (or Rosberg) make the podium. Young Rosberg has also yet to learn that you do not win races at the first corner – you only lose races at the first corner.
McLaren is another team that has doubtful reliability at present, as well as showing another uninspired performance by Juan Pablo Montoya. Raikkonen is firmly seen in the McLaren team as the Number 1 driver, and what happens to Montoya will totally depend on what Kimi wants to do as far as 2007 is concerned. Stay and partner Alonso, or go to another team? There is much talk that he will go to Ferrari if Schumi retires, and this could be so, but a Massa/Raikkonen driver line-up is not likely.
The next race meeting is at Imola on April 23, and I expect the start time will be around 6 p.m. but keep reading this space!

First corner congestion

Sailing along on a Segway

Consider these predictions. Dwindling supplies of fossil fuels. Pollution reaching record levels from exhaust emissions. Congestion on the roads making commuting a thankless task of sitting for endless hours in traffic jams. We are all subject to this, and this is the real picture. Right now.


What will the picture be like for the commuter in 10 years time? Twenty years? (Thirty years is beyond the range of my crystal ball, but unless there is some rapid change, the future looks bleak.) Oil prices per barrel such that only the G8 countries can afford to buy it. Pedestrians will have to wear respirators as the toxic particulate levels go well past “safe” levels, and people will have to queue for public transport, as there will be no room on the roads for private cars. A Sunday drive in the country? Forget it. It will be Tuesday before you get there.
To get over the fossil fuel problems, we have to look towards alternate fuel sources, and electricity we have, we know and we know how to control it. Electricity is virtually non-polluting, but how shall we get over the traffic congestion with too many cars, with single occupants? Forget about car pooling. It has not worked, nor will it ever work, while human beings are still able to be individuals.
The answer as I see it, is your own personal transport system which runs on electricity and can carry you to work and back, using only a small amount of space, just slightly greater than that taken up by a pedestrian. Is this Utopia? No it is not, because it is here now.
There is a personal transporter. It is the Segway. One you stand on and it carries you in any direction you want – intuitively. You “think” where you want to go, and the Segway carries you there almost noiselessly. In many ways, it is an extension of your mind and body.
Now while that sounds a little like science fiction, it is not. I had the opportunity to play with the Segway range last weekend, and it was amazing, just how quickly people would grasp the mobility concept. A couple of the delivery girls at the Bangkok Pattaya Hospital took less than 30 seconds to cotton on to what to do and within five minutes were whizzing soundlessly along the hospital corridors. (Mind you, it should be pointed out that a certain American President fell off while trying to use one. This may explain quite a lot.)
So how does it work? Simple. Lean forwards and it goes forwards, lean back and it goes back. Inside the Segway are five gyroscopes which detect an ‘out of balance’ situation, and correct this with the appropriate motion. In actual fact, this is how a baby learns to walk. The baby stands and then leans forward and unless something is done, it falls on its face, which it does continuously until it learns to place one leg forward to stop the falling motion. This is Step Number One. Remaining in the leaning forward position it will then bring the other leg forward. This is Step Number Two, and us bi-peds go on from there. When we become more adept at this, we can even walk backwards and learn to turn in any direction.
So just how does the Segway, a two wheeled personal transporter, accomplish this ‘humanoid’ behavior? Basically it does just like us, detecting the out-of-balance situation and moves forward in response to this. Because we can balance ourselves, we only need two legs, or in the Segway’s case, two wheels.
It has two independent electric in-wheel motors, so it can change direction easily, in fact it can turn in its own length. This is controlled by a simple twist grip. Ingenious, and intuitive. Tomorrow is here today.
Segway Thailand can be contacted at 02 385 1345 and But please be seated when you hear the price. Tomorrow’s technology does not come cheap.

The Aussie Tuk-Tuk

Many years ago, in my previous existence in Australia, I was the owner of a Thai restaurant called Thai Tasty in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. As always, facts can be checked to show the veracity of these reminiscences!

Thai Tasty was memorable for many reasons – it was the first “Thai fast food to go” in Brisbane – it was my first foray into the food bizz - and it was my first foray as a Tuk-Tuk driver. This was a genuine Bangkok Tuk-Tuk which we had imported via Sydney, shonkily registered it in that city and then brought up to Brisbane on a truck.
I can still remember it being unloaded from the transporter, firing it up and roaring off down the road. At the very first corner I thought I was either going to go straight on, or roll over! A diabolical device, and I began to understand why being a Tuk-Tuk driver is one of those occupations reserved for Thai nationals! It is! Look up the statutes – shoe cleaner is another one. No joke!
However, the Tuk-Tuk soon became the symbol for Thai Tasty, and I rode (rather than ‘drove’) it everywhere. I soon also became the target for my local Inspector Plod who wanted to know why it was registered in Sydney, and I was in Brisbane 1000 km away. I could fudge my way out of that one by saying we were in the process of changing addresses. He also decreed that if it were a motorcycle I must wear a helmet, but if it were a car I had to wear a seat belt. My pleas that this strange vehicle was neither a car nor a motorcycle were to fall on deaf ears. Inspector Plod recognized two categories of vehicle only, and Tuk-Tuk was not in his book of rules.
Since the thought of attaching a seat belt mount to the vinyl roof was more than faintly ridiculous, and I had no desire to wear a helmet, Tuk-Tuk became hidden at the back of the restaurant and only used for surreptitious nocturnal blasts around the block, taking the last few diners for the ride of their lives. By this stage, I must add, I had mastered the art of two wheeled cornering which resulted in the predictable screams from the rear seat.
When I sold the restaurant, the Tuk-Tuk went with it, but I still have this masochistic hankering for one even today. But I lie down till the need passes over!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked which motor vehicle manufacturer was bought by the British Central Equitable Trust – and why? The answer was Bentley, and the trust was being used as a ‘front’ to hide the fact that Rolls-Royce wanted to buy Bentley to stop the competition from the rival manufacturer.
So to this week. I have mentioned the Segway. Who invented it?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!

Motor Shows in Thailand
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that there were two auto shows in Thailand, but one of the readers, Tony Hawkins, has suggested to me that there could be three!
He wrote, “I would like to draw your attention to the Automechanika Thailand which will be at the Muang Thani Arena (Impact Exhibition and Convention Center) from 10 to 13 May 2006. This will be the first Automechanika Thailand, making three motor shows in total now.
The link to the Automechanika Thailand website is http://www.messefrankfurt.
“There is also the Thailand Auto Parts and Accessories (TAPA) show which runs from 11 to 15 October, 2006 at BITEC, but this is geared up more to the trade. The link to the this show is”
I had a look at the Automechanika site and it has exhibitors from all over, including a huge number from China. The Chinese revolution is not coming. It is here already, and in our backyard. You have been warned.