What did we learn from the US GP?
Ignoring the fact that Ferrari came home with their first 1-2
for a couple of years, and that Michael Schumacher put on a sterling display,
there were many things that came to light during the US GP at Indy.
The first was the fact that the Americans appeared to have forgiven F1 for last
year’s fiasco of six race cars droning around for an hour and three quarters.
As well as Michelin’s 20,000 free seats, there was a good crowd, with many
holding up signs professing their enthusiasm for GP racing. I hope they were not
too disappointed with what I consider to have been another fiasco with nine cars
finishing this year. Ah well, I suppose it could be considered a 50 percent
Currently there are 22 drivers starting each race in the Grands Prix. In theory
these are the best 22 drivers in the world. In actual fact, this is obviously
not the case. Some of these 22 are obviously fast drivers, but just as obviously
are not fast-thinking drivers. To lose so many cars on the first lap is just
inexcusable in my book. The first rule that any race driver, at any level, has
to learn is “You do not win the race on the first lap. You only lose the race
on the first lap”. And that is precisely what happened, with the McLaren
Mercedes team being the big losers, with both cars out after Montoya managed to
stuff his nose into Raikkonen’s backside, and it all went pear-shaped from
there, with Heidfeld leaving the race upside down.
The word at Indy was that Montoya’s manager was busy touting his man around
the garages. I would suggest to his manager he try the Caltex on Sukhumvit Road,
which appears to be in need of a pump attendant. I ask you, would you give
Montoya a drive in your million dollar race car? I certainly would not. He is
undoubtedly fast (when he feels like it), but he certainly does not think fast.
What else did we learn? Well the US driver Scott Speed was lucky he did not have
to drive around for 70 odd laps in front of his countrymen. Other than his
speedy motor-mouth, he has been outdriven by Liuzzi all year, and it would have
been embarrassing to have finished behind his team mate. Liuzzi did a sterling
job and outdrove young Rosberg in the WilliamsF1 quite categorically.
Thailand’s 24 hour race
can forget Le Mans and its 24 hour race (won by an Audi diesel no less this
year), as Thailand now has its own 24 hour race. Not quite the hype of the Le
Mans in France which was first held in 1923, but you have to start somewhere,
and it looks like 2006 for the Thailand 24 hour.
As opposed to the European version, which generally has a 50 percent attrition
rate, the Thai 24 hours saw 23 vehicles out of 23 make it to the finish. That in
itself must be a record.
However, rather than the diesel Audis, Porsches and the like, the Thai race cars
were all new Formula RX3 go-karts. These featured 17 HP four stroke engines, and
had adjustable seating to fit drivers between 1.50 m to 1.90 m in height.
There were between five and eight drivers in each team, and any driver could not
remain in the kart for more than one hour at a stretch. Teams were competing for
a first place purse of 12,000 USD, so there was an incentive for overseas
drivers. In fact, around 50 percent of the drivers came from abroad, with the
winners being the Random Racing team from Germany covering 801 laps in the race.
Second was Speedzone from the Philippines two laps behind and Benifica Team
Portugal third one further lap down.
The event was held at the newly renovated Bira Kart Circuit (named after
Thailand’s famous motor racing Prince Bira, one of the few men to have won the
BRDC Gold Star on three consecutive years, pre WW II) and this has to be one of
the best set-ups in Asia. Two storey timing towers, stewards rooms, ablutions
block, the works. There is also a large trailer park where many of the drivers
slept while waiting for their turns. The circuit is also very tortuous, with the
Random Racing Team recording the fastest lap of 68 seconds for the 1.2 km track.
The 24 hour race continued throughout the first 12 hours despite alternating
periods of monsoon rain, and with the karts on slick tyres there was much action
all over the track. However, in the early hours of the morning the next day the
rain was so heavy the race had to be stopped for a few hours, which reduced the
total racing time to something around 18 hours, which according to the
regulations was still long enough to qualify as the endurance event.
The organizers and competitors were impressed by the event, and this 24 hour
endurance race looks as if it will become a permanent fixture in the Thailand
Is an S Class the vehicle for you?
The 2007 model year Mercedes S Class looks to
be the most technologically advanced of the entire Mercedes line-up, but it may
not suit all drivers, who might be a little wary of such electronic
advancements. BMW have had nothing but complaints that its iDrive is too
difficult for the average driver, but here we go again, with M-B presenting the
S Class driver with a similar knob called the “Command” system.
According to one influential American auto tester, Mercedes engineers said that,
in focus group testing, Americans had a far lower aptitude for mastering complex
control systems than European and Japanese testers. Even though the US is the S
Class’s largest market, the new Comand system was designed primarily for
German tastes. However, the Germans have simplified the system for the cars
going to the US, and given the drivers what are referred to as “hard”
buttons to facilitate ease of control.
However, testers Down-Under believe that it’s hardly surprising that
Mercedes-Benz fills the flagship S Class with all the luxury, safety and
performance technology at its disposal. When a customer forks out this sort of
money, they expect the best.
Amongst these aspects are the dynamic contour seats with moving side bolsters
for cornering, “Brake Assist” that optimizes braking function according to
driving conditions and demands, “Pre-Safe” that optimizes various safety
systems if a collision is imminent and an uprated active air suspension that
adjusts according to the road, load and driving style. But the trump card is
night view assist, an infrared camera ($4000) that gives the driver a clear
night view beyond even the bi-xenon headlights on a monochromatic in-dash
The new S Class is bigger in every dimension than the previous model and is
available in short and long wheelbase with the latter being 130 mm longer at 5.2
meters. This all adds to passenger room, especially in the rear. The looks have
been described as reminiscent of the gigantic Maybach (also built by
Mercedes-Benz), and feature a large boot and wheel arch flares.
Power comes from a 5.5 liter petrol V8 kicking out an impressive 285 kW with 530
Nm of torque, with claimed accleration times of 5.4 seconds from rest to 100
kph. That is good sports car times, and this is a luxury sedan.
If fuel consumption means anything to the man who can afford several million
baht for an S Class Benz, then unofficial tests returned as little as 10.5
liters of petrol per 100 km of mixed driving.
Drive is to the rear wheels via a seven speed auto with sequential shift on
steering wheel mounted buttons, plus a stalk selector for auto or otherwise.
The new S Class does represent the next step forward, and hopefully M-B will
have surmounted some of the reliability aspects that have plagued the factory in
the not so distant past.
Last week I mentioned that exports are very
important for the Thai auto industry. In the first quarter of this year,
Thailand waved goodbye to 138,702 vehicles, an increase of almost 60 percent
from the 2005 figures. Major market share went to Toyota (no prizes for guessing
that), but who came second? Clue, they exported 30,531 units in the 2006 first
quarter! Further clue – it isn’t Honda. The correct answer was Mitsubishi.
So to this week. When, and in which country,was the first Grand Prix run? And
before you start saying Silverstone in 1950, that was the first Formula 1 GP.
Think back a little before that!
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
[email protected] Good luck!