So what did we learn from the Monaco GP?
Well, we learned (yet again) that Monaco is an
anachronism that should be deleted from the modern Grand Prix
calendar. A circuit where it is impossible to pass, produces dull
and boring spectating (unless your name is Michael Schumacher –
remember 2006 from the back row of the grid as his penalty after
We also learned, or rather Lewis Hamilton learned, that although
team orders officially do not exist, in actual fact, they do!
There’s no number 1 at McLaren, they are both equal says Ron Dennis,
but some drivers are more equal than others (with apologies to
Animal Farm and George Orwell). When Hamilton was brought in around
five laps early for his second stop, this made sure he didn’t
leap-frog Alonso in pit strategy and risk a ‘to the death’ duel
around the unforgiving circuit. Ron’s cars came in first and second
in the order that had been ordained! However, we should not overlook
the fact that it was a stunning demonstration of dominance by the
McLaren-Mercedes team. Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, was very excited
that McLaren-Mercedes’ two drivers were on the front row of the
grid, saying, “We have two fantastic guys and I am sure that the
whole world is surprised that our rookie is taking on the whole
establishment - to be honest, I am surprised too! But then to see
them coming in 1-2 is the ultimate that you can get out of a race
weekend. This is what I would call ‘mission accomplished’!” Of
course, if one of them were German, it would be even better.
Ferrari have gone away to lick their wounds and wonder why they
spent so much money on the humorous riposte proponent Kimi
Raikkonen. If anyone thought he was the equal of the man whose shoes
he has been asked to fill, they must think again. Poor Felipe Massa
must be wondering what has happened. His once dominant team has lost
the magic formula it seems.
Team Renault has its back to the wall. His supreme being Carlos
Ghosn, the boss of Renault has said he is not interested in Renault
being a make-weight. They are either at the top, or they will pull
out. With Fisichella running hot and cold, and probably too long in
the tooth for a Roman, and Kovalainen not cutting the mustard, team
boss Briatore is looking at his severance pay at the end of 2007.
Toyota executives are lining up for ritual hara-kiri. What a woeful
showing from the world’s number 1 car maker. It is obviously time
for a thorough clean-out at the Toyota garage, including the
lack-luster driver performances.
Can somebody please give Mark Webber a semi-competitive car that can
finish races? It is so long since he has seen the chequered flag, he
has to be shown pictures of it, so that he will recognize it in the
future. If there is a future for Mark Webber.
Alex Wurz took heed of my last column and tried hard, finally
beating his younger Williams F1 team mate. But it won’t be enough to
save him. Sir Frank has sacked world champions, he’ll have no
compunction over also-rans.
BMW was there to pick up the crumbs, but after being lapped by the
McLaren duo, have little to celebrate. Kubica was slightly more than
a nose in front of Heidfeld.
As for the rest? Yawnnn nnnnnnnnnn!
The next GP in Canada June 10 will be better.
Last week I asked who was the first American to win a Grand
Prix in an American race car after Jimmy Murphy in 1921? It was 1967 when Dan
Gurney won the Belgian GP in his Eagle-Weslake V12. The trap was the fact that
it had to be a GP.
So to this week. Which car company built their test track on the roof of their
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
1 liter of fuel for 100 km
Sounds a little like science fiction, but it isn’t.
Volkswagen presented the world’s first 1-liter per 100 km car a couple of years
ago, but it is interesting to look at the technology, and just ‘how’ did they do
The objective was to develop a vehicle with a fuel consumption of no more than
one liter per 100 kilometers, using all technical possibilities available.
The project was taken up by Volkswagen’s Research and Development division to
design and build the world’s most economical car, and it took three years. The
Volkswagen is registered for use on public highways, and at 100 km/h the fuel
consumption is 1-liter.
The key objectives in the development were to minimize all driving resistances
through lightweight construction and outstanding aerodynamics.
However, the target, a fuel consumption level of one liter per 100 kilometers,
meant abandoning conventional vehicle concepts. With a width of just 1.25
meters, the 1-liter car is extraordinarily narrow, the driver and passenger sit
one behind the other in tandem, the transversely installed engine is centrally
located in front of the rear axle, and the plastic bodywork has the highly
aerodynamic shape of a teardrop.
Enginewise, the final solution was a one-cylinder naturally-aspirated diesel
engine with a displacement of just 0.3 liters. This was a completely new,
technically highly sophisticated development. Two overhead camshafts actuate
roller rocker fingers which in turn actuate three valves, two inlet valves and
one exhaust outlet valve.
The one-cylinder SDI diesel engine generates its maximum output (6.3 kW / 8.5
bhp) at 4,000 rpm. The maximum torque of 18.4 Newton metres is delivered at
2,000 rpm. Performance? Well, VW said the 1-liter car reaches a top speed of 120
km/h. What they don’t say is how long it took to get there! My guess is
something like a fortnight down a mineshaft!
However, as a design idea that became reality, VW proved that it is possible –
but at a price. Titanium anythings are not cheap, and the trade-off against
performance would not be accepted by the general public. But it could be done!
And was! Well done VeeDub.
There are those of us who can remember the days before remote locking! You
actually had to unlock the front doors individually, but this meant that you
actually did the gentlemanly thing of escorting your partner to the passenger
door and with a great flourish, you unlocked it and ushered her into the
vehicle. These days you push the button as you approach the car, it responds
with a beep-beep and unlocks everything and your passenger gets herself into the
vehicle, by herself. Of course, I may just be from an era gone by in lamenting
the loss of such gallant gestures!
Having set the scene, let’s look at what can happen with a case of mistaken
identity. It was 1987 and I had flown to the UK for a visit. Using the fact that
I had been a ‘Works Driver’ in MG’s for British Leyland (before they pulled out
of Australia) I had contacted MG Rover in the UK, looking for a car to test for
the two weeks while I was there. No problem, I was told. They would supply a new
Rover 825i for the duration of my trip (motor manufacturers in Thailand who
expect full road tests after one drive around the block, please take note).
In 1987, this Rover 825i was the finest machine in the MG Rover stable. With
mechanicals from the Honda Legend it had all the Japanese quality, with all the
snob appeal of the ‘very British’ Rover badge, Westminster carpet on the floor
and some polished English oak wood on the dashboard! It also came with remote
locking, and the MG Rover chap showed me how it worked, and how the infra-red
remote receiver was behind the internal rear vision mirror. Fully instructed, I
The 825i proved itself to be a reliable, semi-luxury carriage, until the remote
locking failed! I had gone for lunch in one of those quaint English style pubs.
You know the style – all dark wood and warm beer with crusty gentlemen smoking
briar pipes and wearing caps and hairy tweed jackets with leather patches on the
After lunch I picked up the car keys and ventured outside into the crisp, cold
British air and strolled down towards the Rover 825i in the car park. As I
walked towards it, I pushed the unlock button, but nothing happened. No
beep-beep and flashing lights. Obviously I was too far away, so I walked closer
and pushed the magic button again. Still nothing!
I began to analyze the situation. Obviously the cold was making the manual lock
to freeze up, and perhaps the battery must be low in the IR sender. It was then
I remembered the MG Rover chappie telling me about the IR receiver behind the
interior rear vision mirror. Looking through the windscreen I could even see it,
a red bulb behind the mirror. I pointed the remote at the red bulb and
expectantly pressed the button. Nothing!
By now I was getting cold and more than somewhat annoyed. I lay down on the
bonnet of the car, so that I could get the remote on the windscreen, as close as
possible to the red bulb receiver. With a determined thumb I pressed the button
– and still nothing. I tried again, and again and yet this Rover refused to open
Suddenly I heard this very British voice saying, “I say old chap, just what do
you think you are doing?” I turned round and there was the archetypal Briton,
cap and tweed jacket, and bristling with anger. “I am trying to open my car, but
the remote unlocking device does not work,” I replied. “That’s because this is
not your car, this is my car,” said the crusty and now angry Brit. “No it’s
not,” said I. “I have this silver Rover 825i on loan from MG Rover!” “I beg your
pardon,” said crusty, angry gent, “this is MY silver Rover 825i that I bought
from the agents here!” We were now standing toe to toe and I could see I would
need the registration papers to prove my point – but the registration papers, of
course, were inside the locked car.
However, before I could think of my next move, to really rub my nose in it, and
to verify his claim, he went on to say, “Your Rover is the one further down the
car park, in the next line!” I looked at where he was pointing, and there it
was. I pointed the remote, pushed and it beeped and flashed the lights. With
burning shame, I could only apologize profusely and offer him a warm beer. He
declined, muttering something about the fact that he was still sober and knew
what he was doing! I slunk away.