Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

What did we learn from the Canadian GP?

Well, we learned (if we didn’t know already) that Lewis Hamilton looks like being the next Michael Schumacher, but with a better personality. He would not be drawn into comparisons

Alex Wurz - smiling for now

 between himself and team mate Alonso, and in reply to one journalist who said, “Fernando didn’t have the best of days. At this point do you even care?” Hamilton replied, “That’s a bit of a silly question to be honest. He’s my teammate, I’ve got a lot of respect for him and we’re quite good friends. At the end of the day we are a team, we both want to finish at the front. I don’t know what happened in his race but we need to have a look and it’s not good for him obviously.” He also said, “The next dream is obviously to win a Formula One world championship but at the moment we have to be realistic again. It’s always good to bear in mind that I’m still a rookie and this is my first season. There are going to be some hard times. I hope that there aren’t but it’s just bound to happen, it’s just the way it goes in this business and there’ll be good days and bad days. But at the moment it’s been consistent and that’s down to the team and all the people around me. I’ve got a very well-grounded family and I think it works perfect.” And that’s from a 22 year old who is leading the world championship in his first season!
We also learned that Motor Racing is (still) dangerous, but the safety in the tubs is phenomenal. Robert Kubica surviving a multiple roll and progressive destruction of his BMW to the point where they swept it up with shovels and wheel barrows. However, I do not think he should be driving this weekend in the US GP.
Much was made of the fact that Alex Wurz came third, and how that will save him at Williams F1. Don’t even think about it. He got his third through a combination of factors over which our Alex had no control. Four Safety Car episodes, drive through penalties for Alonso and Rosberg for refueling while the Safety Car was on track, black flags for Massa and Fisichella for leaving the pits against the red light (they must have thought they were in Thailand) and innumerable DNFs for all sorts of reasons, including mechanical breakdowns and accidents. Most of those drivers would have finished in front of Alex. When he qualifies around 10 grid spots behind his team mate, his time at Williams F1 is limited.
Attaku Sato was magnificent, totally eclipsing the Honda team and then picking off Ralf Schumacher and Alonso. Masterful drive from the usually excitable Japanese driver. Afterwards, Sato said, “This was absolutely the most beautiful day in my racing career and is an amazing result.” It certainly was, Taku, and I’ll bet the karaoke bars got a belting that night in Montreal.
We also learned that the Safety Car could completely ruin a hoped for podium, with Mark Webber in the Red Bull going from 2nd to 14th when he came out after refueling, to find all the cars bunched up behind the pace car, and he had to tag on to the end.
Finally we learned that Alonso is not all that good a loser. There was nothing wrong with his car, he in fact set the fastest lap of the race, saying, “I think this was a strange race with the Safety Car being deployed so many times which worked to Lewis’ advantage today and my disadvantage. I had to push as hard as possible because I was stuck in the middle of the field and when you push to the maximum you sometimes go off track but at that stage there was nothing to lose.” Those are not the words of a world champion (or the actions).

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked about an engine. It was one of the most enduring engine designs that came out just after WW I and stayed in production until 1963. It was a six cylinder, wet-liner engine of just under 2 liters and had a single overhead camshaft. Originally it produced a whopping 35 bhp, but by the time it was phased out it was giving more than 100 bhp. Clue: the last car this engine went into, eventually was given a V8. It was the AC engine that was still around when it was dropped into the AC Ace in 1954. It was this basic body/chassis that went to America and in its ultimate form was the Shelby Cobra 427, complete with V8 American iron up front.
So to this week. Check out this photograph. I want to know what car this is. Clue: It was driven by Hermann Lang.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected] Good luck!

The Eco cars are coming
After years of apparent lack of direction, or motivation, the word is out that the Finance Ministry has finally agreed on the excise tax for Eco cars. This was the first stumbling block for the manufacturers, who quite correctly said they were not going to just start producing Eco cars without knowing whether they could sell them at an attractive price. Remember that one reason that pick-ups are so popular is the excise tax on a pick-up has been less than that on a passenger car.
The figure for Eco cars has finally been set at 17 percent, but there are many more specifications that have to be followed before the manufacturers get the green light.
In brief, the engine size is capped at 1,300 cc (petrol) or 1,400 cc (diesel). Fuel consumption has to be no more than five liters of fuel for 100 km, and comply with Euro 4 pollution standards, emitting no more than 120 gm Co2 per km. And (there’s always an “and” isn’t there) the vehicle has to also meet the European standards on crash safety. All in all, these are tough specifications for any manufacturer, as the smaller the car, the harder it is to pass crash testing.
It is expected that with the drop in excise, these Eco cars will retail at least less than B. 500,000. At that sort of money, there’s not much in it for the automakers, so they really want to sell these in large numbers. If they sell them in large enough numbers in Thailand, this can only be at the expense of their own current sales of pick-ups and small cars (like the Chevrolet Aveo, for example). So the answer has to be the export market.
Which brings up the next problem. Can Thailand sell enough Eco cars overseas? Especially when the labor costs in China and India are much less, and both of these countries have budget cars already in production which could sell at less than B. 500,000, right now.
The local manufacturers Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi and Suzuki are said to be already in talks with the government, through the Board of Investment (BoI), but this is another government department not known for thinking on its feet and making quick decisions. And since the government will be changing within six months, there is no incentive to do anything in the interim.

Lexus Cash anyone?
Lexus has got itself rather hot under the collar, following opening of a website in the US. Called Lexus Cash ( and please be over 18), it is a site that offers “Free Tours”, which is more than Toyota’s Lexus does. They are also offering a three day trial for $5, which is also cheaper than Lexus outlets. Perhaps this is a new marketing ploy from Toyota, but I doubt it, as they are currently suing the lovely Lexus Cash saying that she “uses the marque Lexus in an unwholesome and unsavoury context”. So don’t go picking up young ladies in your Lexus, heading for the closest lover’s lookout. You have been warned. Toyota will not stand for it.