Blinder at Bira
A couple of weeks ago we were treated to some of the best
racing seen at Bira Circuit for some time. Promoted by Thailand SuperCars, it
featured the two One-Make series – the Vios and the Yaris and a motorcycle race
as well. The cars were well presented, with the bright red Pizza Company cars
standing out well in the field of around 30 drivers.
The fact that Go-Karts are a stepping stone to other formulae was very evident,
with the eventual Vios winner (Jack), also racing Go-Karts on the same day, and
being a winner there too.
In the feature race, Grant Supaphongs in the Honda Civic managed to keep all the
mechanicals going to stay in front of Natavude in the works Toyota Corolla
despite much pushing and prodding by the Toyota driver. It was the best day’s
racing at Bira that I have seen for some time.
The next two meetings at Bira will be in June. The RAAT promoted meeting will be
on June 3-4 and the SuperCar meeting one week later June 10-11.
What did we learn from the European GP?
Well the first thing was that you never write off Mickey the Shoemaker. The
mental powers of the elder Schumacher are prodigious, and it was obvious right
from the start that MS was never going to settle for second place. When he took
the lead after the second pit stop (by dint of lapping for three laps around
half a second quicker than anything Alonso had recorded), plus a very quick pit
stop, showed the combined talents of Schumacher and strategist Ross Brawn. A
brilliant display from the red cars. The world’s press seems fixated on will he
retire at the end of this season. Why should he?
Red Bulls charge each other
We also learned that perhaps Massa has matured. A great back-up effort and he
deserved his third step on the podium (which was also his first).
Messrs Honda and Toyota left Germany licking a few wounds. Ralf and Jensen
Button stopped out on track, as did Montagny in the Honda engined (still not
very) Super Aguri. However, I was pleased to see (as did 21 other drivers) that
Mr. Ide was told by the FIA to go back to school and learn how to drive.
Another sterling (or Aussie dollar) drive by Mark Webber, having come from 19th
on the grid to 12, when yet again, the hydraulics let go in his WilliamsF1.
Young Rosberg in the other WilliamsF1 also did well, but the strategy was hard
to understand. He did 33 laps of the 60 lap race on his first tank of fuel, so
why make him do another two stops? He sacrificed 5th place because of this.
Fisichella continues to have “bad luck” in the second Renault. It is time he
realized he is not performing, when his team mate is always at the sharp end.
Even if he doesn’t realize this, I am sure Flavio Briatore does. Do not expect
Fisi at Renault next year.
McLaren-Mercedes are not having a happy year so far. Only Raikkonen is
performing consistently in their driver line-up, and with Alonso moving to
McLaren next year, and Michael Schumacher going to continue at Ferrari, could
see Raikkonen stay put. I expect that the Colombian will be looking for a job
next year. Renault perhaps?
Red Bull with four cars between their A and B teams must be heartily sick of
their drivers running into each other.
It is time their management sat them down and gave them my first lesson for new
race drivers: “You never win the race on the first corner. You can only lose the
race at the first corner!”
Last week I mentioned that the Model T Ford is usually thought of as the first
mass-produced vehicle, but this is not strictly correct as many other
manufacturers also did this (Leland, De Dion Bouton and Lanchester). Henry Ford
is also credited as being the designer of the Model T, but this is not strictly
correct either! Who did design the Model T?
The answer was James Couzens.
So to this week. Which car company called their first car the Model 92? Clue: It
was produced in 1949 and was based on a German design, though the car company
was not German.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
By the way, a couple of weeks back I mentioned the great US speedcar driver Mel
Kenyon. Reader John Stanley sent me a couple of photographs, and here is one,
taken last year in Brisbane Australia of the man himself, about to go out and do
some demonstration laps. He will be back there this year to do it again! What a
Are we ready for alternate fuels?
With all the general brou-ha-ha about the increasing oil
prices per barrel and the police department owing money to gas stations, there
appears to be a groundswell towards alternate fuels, including biodiesel, LPG
and NGV, as well as hydrogen. But is this a realistic concept?
Have you ever stopped to think about all the advances that technology has
brought us in the last 100 or so years? Telephones that are now so small they
fit in your ear, TV coverage that is brought to us in real time via satellite,
motor cars that can travel all over the world with multiple functions governed
by an on-board computer, planes that can carry 500 people from capital cities,
the list is endless. However, there is also a limiting factor for the
wide-spread use of our technological creativity. Infrastructure!
Everyone understands that you cannot fly from Bangkok to Manila without an
airport at each end, complete with refueling capacity. You likewise cannot drive
all over the world unless there are some fuel pumps liberally dotted along your
The auto manufacturers have had alternative fuel vehicles running on the roads
for years, be that EVs (Electric Vehicles), hydrogen cars and other sorts of
fuel cells. We have the technology. These vehicles run and will carry people in
a non-polluting manner and do not need gasoline. So why are we still dependant
upon oil? At $75 a barrel of crude! The answer is simple – lack of
We have shown that the vehicles work, but how do you refuel? Take for example,
the press release from Chevron in the US in the early part of this year. The
headline was “First Chevron Hydrogen Energy Station Unveiled” and went on to
say, “ChevronTexaco Technology Ventures LLC (CTTV), a subsidiary of
ChevronTexaco Corp., unveiled its first Chevron Hydrogen energy station today at
the Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center in California. The project is part of
the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Controlled Hydrogen Fleet and Infrastructure
Demonstration and Validation Program.”
Wonderful! But one station is quite useless. You need another one to give you
somewhere to go to! It reminds me of the (in)famous Bristol Brabazon plane,
which when it was built in the immediate post WW II period, complete with eight
engines (four pushing and four pulling), found that there was only one airport
that was strong enough to support its weight. That was the airport it was built
at! It flew, taking off and landing at the same location, and totally useless
for the overall concept of transporting people from point A to point B.
So back to the hydrogen pump and the “Controlled Hydrogen Fleet and
Infrastructure Demonstration and Validation Program.” Provided you live in
California, within driving distance of the Hyundai-Kia Technical Center you
might be right. But forget driving to Texas, or even the next big town. The
infrastructure isn’t there to support your new technology vehicle.
Yes, I hear you say, but surely there are others? Yes there are, including the
world’s largest hydrogen filling station which was formally opened in Berlin,
last year. Hydro supplies the equipment for hydrogen gas production and has
worked with eight other companies in the Clean Energy Partnership (CEP) project,
which is supported by the Federal Government of Germany. The aim of the project
is to demonstrate that hydrogen can function as an everyday fuel with a view to
future sustainable mobility. Sure they can, but you need more than one large
hydrogen filling station.
However, there are some more. There’s one in Toronto and another in Singapore,
none of which are going to be much good for the hydrogen powered car owner in
Manila, Beijing of Bangkok. We have the technology, but we do not have the
Mine is not the only voice in the wilderness. Yoshio Kimura, a senior official
with Toyota’s fuel-cell systems group, expressed concerns that lagging
infrastructure could slow hydrogen momentum. Kimura said in 2004, “We need a
real breakthrough in hydrogen production and delivery systems. While the Fuel
Cell Hydrogen Vehicle (FCHV) is a real-world working vehicle, we’re still far
away from seeing this at your local Toyota dealer.” Toyota’s FCHV can travel
less than 300 km on a single hydrogen fill-up. At today’s hydrogen rates,
consumers would pay $1 for every 16 km traveled - in other words, nearly 30
percent more than what they would pay per km in a car with a moderately
efficient gasoline engine.
Certainly there would be the usual economies of scale with multiple hydrogen
refueling stations, but we do not have this infrastructure. So to purchase a
hydrogen vehicle right now, you have to be a very strongly committed
environmentalist, be prepared to pay for your beliefs, and not want to travel
too far from home (which had better be close to a hydrogen station).
We already have the technology so we would not be dependent upon oil.
Unfortunately we are then dependent on (non-existent) infrastructure!