Monaco GP this weekend
Monaco round the
The annual parade of the film stars, rock
legends, B List pseudo-celebs 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. There
will even by some models of the Dutch Spykers in the car parks,
probably faster than the Spykers they have entered in the Monaco GP.
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. An over-ambitious move like Alonso’s at
the start of the Spanish GP will definitely lead to retirement.
So the most critical part of this Grand Prix will happen on the
Saturday. And that’s qualifying. He who is on pole, has a greater
than 75 percent chance of winning. So who will be on P1? Massa has
been amazingly quick for the past three Grands Prix, and will be
trying hard to make it four in a row. However, I am putting my money
on Hamilton. He knows the circuit, has no fear and has superb car
control. Rather than fuel him heavy, compared to Alonso, they will
fuel him light to give him every chance. The Qualifying is at 7 p.m.
on the Saturday 26 May, with the race at 7 p.m. on Sunday 27.
I will be watching from my perch in front of the big screen at
Jameson’s Irish Pub, Soi AR, going there at 6 p.m. for dinner before
the race at 7 p.m. Why don’t you join me?
Last week I asked which F1 car broke down in its debut race
and spectators tossed coins into the cockpit in derision? Clue, think green. It
was the original BRM, a vehicle so far ahead of its time, that it was in front
of the metallurgical knowledge of the day, leading to multiple failures. It was
a huge step forward in many ways, when it was first shown in 1949. The 1.5 liter
V16 was supercharged and developed 450 bhp at 10,000 rpm. The motor racing world
had never seen anything like it, with most cars having large capacity
unsupercharged engines. Unfortunately, by the time BRM had got it reliable, the
formula had been changed and the car was no longer eligible for F1.
So to this week. Who was the first American to win a Grand Prix in an American
race car after Jimmy Murphy in 1921?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Current EffWun standings
We have had four rounds so far this 2007 season, and it is
certainly tight at the top of the league. Nobody is head and shoulders above the
rest, so fans cannot complain. Here is the table at this stage
Lewis Hamilton 30 points
Fernando Alonso 28 pts
Felipe Massa 27 pts
Kimi Raikkonen 22 pts
Nick Heidfeld 15 pts
Robert Kubica 8 pts.
Will Hamilton still be on top after Monaco, being the youngest driver ever to
lead the world championship? Watch this space.
Audi releases the V2 TT
The second-generation TT Roadster is out. And the Audiphiles are salivating
while waiting. I must say that this new one looks better than the tarted up
‘old’ one, in my book, with somewhat more conservative styling.
Audi TT Roadster.
Audi opted for a fabric folding roof again, having decided that the metal
alternative favored by many other car makers lately adds unnecessary
complication and weight, raises the center of gravity and affects boot space too
severely. (However, the Mazda MX5 that we featured after the Bangkok
International Motor Show didn’t have those problems!) The cloth hood features
steel and aluminium reinforcements, a larger glass rear window than the previous
model and will be available in either black or dark grey.
Audi in Australia discontinued bringing in the six-speed manual transmission
early last year and will once again offer the TT Roadster with only the
so-called S tronic (dual-clutch DSG sequential semi-auto) transmission.
As with the TT coupe, there are two engine choices – the 2.0 liter turbo driving
the front wheels only, and the 3.2 liter V6 driving all four wheels. Power
outputs are the same: 147 kW at 5100-6000 rpm and 280 Nm at 1800-5000 rpm for
the 2.0 TFSI, and 184 kW at 6300 rpm and 320 Nm at 2500-3000 rpm for the 3.2 V6.
I expect that Thailand will get the same model specifications.
All Roadsters feature high-strength steel rollover bars, an electric rear
spoiler that automatic raises at 120 km/h (it can also be activated at the push
of a button), a new audio system and a driver information system.
The standard electrohydraulic opening system opens the roof at the push of a
button in just 12 seconds and can be operated at speeds of up to 50 km/h.
The roof also incorporates an additional layer of sound-proofing beneath the
black headliner for better insulation over the manual roof that is standard on
the 2.0 TFSI in Europe.
Like the coupe, the TT Roadster body benefits from the new aluminium and steel
spaceframe chassis construction that is not only much lighter than then previous
all-steel system but also aids torsional stiffness, which is vital for a
To further improve the structural rigidity of the convertible, Audi replaced the
coupe’s side sills with complex extruded aluminium sections, strengthened the A
pillars and added a steel tube into the windscreen frame.
Audi claims that the result is a 120 per cent improvement in static torsional
rigidity over the previous model.
Compared with the original, the new TT Roadster is 137 mm longer at 4178 mm, 78
mm wider at 1842 mm, 8 mm higher at 1358 mm and sits on a 46 mm longer wheelbase
at 2468 mm.
Inside, there is more shoulder width, head and elbow room, and luggage space
expands from 210 to 250 litres.
The 2.0 TFSI S tronic is claimed to sprint to 100 km/h in 6.5 seconds (just one
tenth slower than the coupe) on its way to a 237 km/h top speed. Average fuel
consumption on the combined European measure is 7.8 L/100 km.
The 3.2 Quattro (4WD) completes the 0-100 km/h dash in a claimed 5.9 seconds
(two-tenths slower than the coupe) on its way to a 250 km/h top speed, using an
average of 9.5 L/100 km.
According to the Australian test panel, all the positive aspects of the TT coupe
are evident in the Roadster, making it a considerable improvement on the frankly
disappointing first generation car.
On a brief test drive in northern Italy on mainly motorways, the new offering
felt altogether more solid, thanks to the new chassis construction, which
benefits both ride and handling.
As with the coupe, the interior is well laid-out, with big prominent dials, nice
armrests in the doors and a handy padded armrest on the handbrake (though this
will be useless for Australian drivers because the handbrake will remain offset
to the left when it is converted to right-hand drive).
The dash presents a large, hard plastic face to the passenger and I found it
curious that there were three central air vents, but the flat-bottom steering
wheel is a nice racey touch and the seats were quite supportive.
However, it is not all good news for the Roadster. While the 3.2 felt quite
light and lively, well balanced and generally taut, the 2.0 was not so pleasant.
The ageing engine seemed harsh and was prone to popping like turbos of the past,
but more worrying was the poor door shut quality. We hope it was just a tired
We were also disappointed by the lack of a cover for the roof after it has
retracted. It just looks incomplete and leaves gaps on either side big enough
for pedestrians to drop a drink can or half-eaten hamburger into, left to rot or
be fished out by the unimpressed owner.
Overall, though, the TT Roadster is a huge step forward over the original; it
looks fabulous (more stylish than the quirky original for mine), feels more
solid (with reservations over those doors), does not squeal into understeer at
the sight of a corner, the V6 is smooth and flexible, and it goes as fast as it
How to change 70 billion dollars into 650
The 70 billion dollars is what Daimler has spent on Chrysler since it
took it over nine years ago, changing their name to DaimlerChrysler, and
includes the 36 billion it paid for it in the first place. In a new deal
announced last week, a private equity group called Cerberus Capital Management
has taken control of the Chrysler side of DaimlerChrysler (it was a silly name
anyway) at a cost of 7.45 billion dollars. That’s a long way from 36 billion.
Under the terms, Cerberus will own 80.9 percent of a new company, called
Chrysler Holding LLC, while Daimler Chrysler will retain 19.9 percent. However,
by the time debts are paid and everything else is washed up, DaimlerChrysler
will have had to throw another 650 million dollars on the floor. Hasn’t that
been an expensive mistake! Should I go so far as to say incompetence? Probably
not, just in case they sue me, and what would I know about profit and loss
ledgers? But I’m not colorblind. I can differentiate red from black!
“We’re confident that we’ve found the solution that will create the greatest
overall value - both for Daimler and Chrysler,” Dieter Zetsche, the Daimler CEO
said in a prepared statement. “With this transaction, we have created the right
conditions for a new start for Chrysler and Daimler.” Well, for Daimler, at
least they can now concentrate on their own problems, without the millstone of
Chrysler around the corporate neck. Remember that Chrysler recorded a cool 1.5
billion dollars loss for them in the 2006 year.
So now, Chrysler has a new boss(es) running the show. And will a private equity
company make a good job of turning Chrysler around? “Cerberus is the right
strategic buyer for Chrysler, with a long-term commitment to Chrysler’s growth
and success. They are committed to working constructively with both union
leadership and Chrysler’s management team to help Chrysler realize its full
potential,” Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda said. He also said the deal would not
trigger job cuts beyond the 13,000 Chrysler announced in February as part of its
restructuring plan. And if you believe all that, you still believe in Santa
What will happen is an immediate slashing of the above the line expenses.
Hatchet men will appear in suits, hiding their scythes, to bring them out at the
appropriate moment. Private equity companies do not have an automaker’s soul.
Walter P Chrysler did. Lee Iacocca did. Cerberus does not.
I predict this new Chrysler company will sell off anything that still has a
value, and in four years it will be on the block once more. Trussed and
defeathered. RIP Chrysler.