Monaco GP this weekend

The annual parade of the film stars, rock legends and the rich and powerful is on this weekend in the tiny principality of Monaco. The harbour will be wall to wall expensive yachts and the villa car parks will have all the Lambo’s, Ferrari’s and Maserati’s you would ever wish for.

Somewhere in the middle of all this excess wealth (me, jealous?) is a supposed motor race. I say ‘supposed’, because the circuit is now totally unsuitable for today’s F1 cars. Passing is impossible, and other than waiting for the guy in front to stick it in the wall, you can forget about passing, especially if your name is David Coulthard or Ralf Schumacher. Even if your name is Michael Schumacher, it’s still difficult!
Renault will have everything crossed for this one, as it will be important not to let Schumacher in the Ferrari get in front during qualifying. Meanwhile, you can be sure that the gnomes in Bridgestone have been busy. Schumacher (M) is a past master at this circuit, so even if he is not on pole after Qualifying, do not write him off. Ever!
The race begins at 7 p.m.

They do have racing on the left hand side of the Atlantic

While F1 is still, in my opinion, the epitome of “le sport pure”, it should not be forgotten that there is a very strong motor racing following in the USA, with their own indigenous championships, and it is difficult to find a competition with more mystique than the famous “brickyard”, the Indianapolis 500 mile race. This year’s Indy 500 on May 28 is the 90th running of the event. That is a real competition history.
With the speeds of the cars these days, a 4 km lap is covered in around 40 seconds, and they keep that up for 200 laps. The cars are so closely matched, timing is done to four decimal places! In practice this month, Sam Hornish clocked 40.1104 seconds with Helio Castroneves a close second behind his teammate with a lap of 40.2879, followed by Scott Sharp at 40.3058; 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice at 40.3777; and defending champion Dan Wheldon at 40.4286.
To show that this closeness goes all the way through the field, female sensation Danica Patrick, who began drawing attention to herself last year when she regularly ran fastest in practice, endured another frustrating day, posting the 20th quickest lap at 40.9975. “It was a tough day in the Argent Mortgage Honda,” she said. A tough day, for sure. Zero point eight seconds behind and 19 cars in front!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that two of the Maserati brothers had the same name, and I asked, how did this happen? This was easy (especially for the Googlers). There were seven Maserati brothers (born to Rodolfo Maserati and Carolina Losi), Carlo b 1881; Bindo b 1883; Alfieri b 1885 (who died in infancy and his name was given to the next son) Alfieri b 1887; Mario b 1890; Ettore b 1894 and Ernesto b 1898.
So to this week. I mentioned the third race car to go into the harbour at Monaco, which was staged for the movie Grand Prix. What was the movie race driver’s name who played the part, and what was the car?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!

Luxury Lexus Hybrid hits the general market

Lexus GS 450h

The Lexus GS450h – “h” for hybrid – is the company’s first performance hybrid. It is also the first among the luxury marques to deliver an economical, yet enormously powerful luxury sedan, and that perhaps is the real measure of the inroads Lexus has made. It started out following the pack, now Lexus leads it, and with oil certain to touch $100 a barrel by the end of this year, Lexus is providing the well-heeled set justification for their expensive choice. Not only that, but in some markets, the hybrid GS 450h is being priced under the GS 430, which shares body and mechanicals, other than the power train.
The GS450h has a 3.5 liter quad-cam VVT-i V6, plus two highly efficient water-cooled variable voltage electric motors mounted within the sequential-shift CVT transmission.
For the techno folk, the V6 and the first electric motor (MG1) are linked by a planetary gear set that splits the petrol engine power to propel the vehicle and drive MG1 to create electricity. MG1 also fulfils the role as starter motor for the V6. The second electric motor (MG2) provides motive power and power to act as a generator for the regenerative braking system. It sounds complex but the whole operation apparently works seamlessly.
The GS450h has both power and performance, with the combined electric and petrol engines developing 254kW. This is 22 per cent more combined power than the 208kW V8 GS430. Notwithstanding the impressive power output numbers, the hybrid also manages to deliver 275Nm of instantaneous torque from the electric motor.

The GS hybrid has been designed to deliver the performance of a V8 with the economy of a six cylinder, and with a zero to 100 kph time of under six seconds, this hybrid is certainly no slouch. The powerful electric motor delivering high levels of torque during mid-acceleration, for impressively quick overtaking manoeuvres. The combined output of both the V6 and hybrid system is 254kW with the MG2 itself developing 147kW/275Nm from standstill.
With the hybrid in tandem, the GS450h delivers instantaneous torque right across the rev range. Apart from fuel economy gains, the hybrid technology ensures that the GS450h has one of the industry’s lowest emissions ratings.
The hybrid has all the active and passive safety features of the rest of the GS range with 10 airbags, variable gear ratio steering, adaptive variable suspension, pre-collision system, active radar cruise control, traction control and vehicle stability control, vehicle swerve control, brake assist and vehicle dynamics integrated management.
Like other Lexus vehicles, the standard equipment list is long and detailed, running to climate-control, parking sensors, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, Bluetooth compatibility, 14-speaker Mark Levinson CD stereo, sunroof, power boot, climate-controlled front seats and navigation system.
On the inside there is little to distinguish the hybrid except for the visual power/economy readout and a kiloWatt power meter to marked to 275kW, which replaces the traditional tachometer.
Apart from the car’s high-tech and luxury attributes, the Lexus also delivers fuel economy of 7.9L/100km, giving it a 32 percent greater fuel range than the GS430 and 13.5 per cent greater range than the GS300.

A little Monaco history

Since 1929, the Monaco GP has always run through the streets of Monte Carlo. It is a slow circuit, demanding on both car and driver. The presence of kerbs and walls leaves little room for even small mistakes.
One of the men behind the original race was Louis Chiron, who last drove at Monaco in 1955, when he was placed sixth and, at 55 years and 276 days, was the oldest driver to start a World Championship Grand Prix (so there’s hope for me yet)! Chiron continued as Clerk of the Course up to his death in 1979.
There have been small changes to the circuit over the years, but it has retained its essence and frequently provides some of the more spectacular crashes in the calendar. Two drivers have managed to finish up in the Monte Carlo harbour. Alberto Ascari in 1955 and Paul Hawkins in 1965 - in neither case was the driver badly hurt. There was a third excursion in the harbour, in the classic movie, Grand Prix, but that was staged for the movie.