Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

BMW looking for a new bride

BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer confirmed last week that the company had recently considered taking over other car-makers and was still open to the concept of acquisitions, but did not name potential targets.
Delivering the BMW Group’s latest corporate strategy, Dr Reithofer also appeared to suggest the Group had considered creating a new brand to sit alongside BMW, Rolls-Royce and Mini.
BMW was this year reported to have investigated taking over Volvo, one of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group brands, and is also said to be interested in Alfa Romeo.
“The BMW Group explored all of the options for future growth during the strategic review, including potential acquisitions or the creation of a fourth brand,” the company said in a statement issued last Thursday. “However, this would require the new automotive brand to be a perfect fit for the company and its strengths.”
Dr Reithofer went on to say that it does not rule out further acquisitions and that the company was prepared to pounce if the right opportunity arises. “In principle, we will keep acquisitions on our agenda,” he said. “We defined clear criteria for potential acquisitions within the scope of our strategic review. This will allow us to act swiftly whenever necessary.”
So what is there for the picking, I wonder? It certainly isn’t Proton!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked who scored the first GP win for a British driver in a British car since 1924? The hint was think teeth. It was of course the flying dentist, Tony Brooks in a Connaught at Syracuse in 1955.
So to this week. Let’s try your Lamborghini knowledge. By the way, it is “Lamborgeenee”, not “Lamborjeenee”. The fore-runner of the Espada was the Marzal which was displayed for the first time at the 1967 Geneva Motor Show and was the show-stopper (it was, I was there and sat in it). What were the main differences between the Marzal show car and the Espada production car?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected] Good luck!


Bernie dumps his Mercs
If you want a really expensive motor car, forget about new Ferraris, Lambos and the like. Go back into the 1930’s and look for something like a Mercedes 540K. Or my pick, the SSKL.

Mercedes 540 K

Information came through the other day that Bernie Ecclestone, everyone’s favorite F1 guru, is selling some of his car collection to make room in the garage for some historic EffWun race cars.
These include (with estimated auction price in brackets) his 1937 Mercedes 540K Cabriolet A ($2 million), the 1931 Mercedes SSKL ($2.5 million) and the 1937 Mercedes 540K Special ($9.4 million). It is expected that the 540K Special may break the 2004 record for the most expensive Mercedes ever sold ($8.6 million for a 38/250 SSK).
It must be shocking to be short of a shilling or two!

What did we learn from the Chinese GP?
Well we learned, even before the race kicked off that Ralf Schumacher isn’t silly. He tendered his resignation to Toyota before they could present him with a DCM (Don’t Come Monday). Ralf’s days in a big buck team are over. Perhaps NASCAR will have a spot for him. After all, they like big crashes.
Another casualty I have been predicting is Alex Wurz, and just to bolster his confidence Sir Frank Williams came out before the race to say Alex’s outlook was “bleak”. Thanks Frank for the gentle let-down!
We also learned that McLaren are hurting after the one hundred million dollar fine paid to the FIA. Sending Lewis Hamilton back out on second-hand tyres and then keeping him out there for another two laps even though the canvas was showing, to get their money’s worth. Pity about the fact that it cost Lewis Hamilton a world championship.
We also heard that the sulky Spaniard has really been throwing his toys out of the pram. After coming in fourth after qualifying he apparently slammed a door in the McLaren motor home so hard it came off its hinges! Then he blubbers to the Spanish media that McLaren have been sabotaging his car! Why Ron Dennis continues to employ him is beyond me. I wouldn’t. I’ve fired maids for less. And I don’t pay them $15 million a year either.
One rumor round the paddock has Alonso going to Red Bull and Webber going to McLaren on a straight swap deal next year. However, I believe it is far more likely that Alonso will go back to Renault for 2008.
Raikkonen drove well and never placed a wheel wrong, and has consolidated his position as number one at Ferrari. Massa will continue with Ferrari but will just be the bridesmaid again in 2008.
On race day, Alex Wurz decided he would do a Ralf and announced he would fall on his sword before Sir Frank did it for him. Nice guy, but just not quick enough I’m afraid.
Vitantonio Liuzzi has sparkled up since the spotty American left the Roaring Tosser fold. In fact, the team has now really become worthy of the name Toro Rosso. Whilst Vettel has been getting the limelight recently (good and bad), Liuzzi would be a good driver in another team, since he knows already that they have taken his name off the locker room door, with Sebastian Bourdais taking his place in 2008. How about Liuzzi for Williams now that Wurz has thrown in the towel? He will still be a ‘pay’ driver and Sir Frank likes money.
We saw that Honda is still in deep diabolicals. Despite Button’s lucky result following good tyre calls, the 2007 Honda is not quick enough, and in Rooby Baby’s hands it is even slower. Barichello would be out of a job in 2008 if anyone wanted his race seat. But nobody needs that sort of embarrassment.
BMW had only a very average weekend, and a DNF for Robert (le nez) Kubica. Heidfeld was confirmed as partner with Kubica for 2008 a few weeks ago, and his performance has dropped again since then.
Down in the Renault camp, Fisichella continues to less than impress, whilst Kovalainen gets stronger with every race. Fisi will be out to pasture next year, to join Wurz, Ralf and Trulli.
By the way, please note that the Brazil race will commence at 11 p.m. on the 21st of this month. I have been told that UBC in their catalogue advertised that the Japanese race commenced at noon. It didn’t. Don’t believe the catalogue.

The new Nissan GTR is coming
Nissan will reveal the production version of its blistering new performance flagship at the Tokyo motor show on October 24. The performance world has been waiting six years for the new “Godzilla”, the name given to the previous model, a car that so dominated Australian sedan car racing that it was eventually effectively banned from competition!

Nissan Godzilla

The company has kicked off its pre-launch campaign by uploading a dedicated global GT-R website (www. Other than revealing dimly-lit detail shots, exterior paint color choices, information on how to place orders and the fact pricing will start at around 7.8 million Yen in Japan ($75,000 or thereabouts), the site provides no new information on Nissan’s direct rival for the Porsche 911 Turbo.
Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn is quoted as saying, “Today’s technology allows us to make a high-performance car, a flagship car for Nissan that can be adapted to all the driving conditions across the globe.”
Latest speculation in Japan has the 21st Century Godzilla powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.8 liter V6 codenamed VQ38HRTT - a twin-turbo version of the 3.8-litre VQ35HR that powers the Nismo 380RS-C, a racing version of the 350Z developed for privateers in Japan’s Super Taikyu series.
The fitment of twin turbos and with Nissan’s new VVEL variable valve timing and lift system, it’s alleged to be capable of more than 350 kW and 540 Nm of torque, putting it right in the 911T territory.
Having driven the previous Godzilla models, which were spectacular but had less sting than this new one, this GTR will certainly be a supercar.

My first race
On a Friday in 1965 I managed to get finance for a 10 year old MGA. On the Saturday I learned how to remove the windscreen and the front and rear bumper bars. By lunch I had fitted a small aero screen and painted the brake drums silver, and could not resist the opportunity for a quick fang around the block in its new ‘racing’ guise. If I had restricted this ‘race testing’ to one lap it would have been better, but I got carried away with the excitement of it all. On the second circuit I noticed a policeman on a motorcycle doing a U-Turn and obviously after me. I raced for the safety of my home, only two corners away.
As I handbrake turned into my driveway, the police motorcyclist drew up across the gateway to make sure I didn’t get away. “Is this vehicle registered?” he said, taking off the shades and his motorcycle gloves. “Yes,” said I, trying to look surprised at seeing a policemen blocking my driveway. “So where are the number plates for this car?” was his next question. “Er, on the bumper bars,” said I. “And where are the bumper bars?” “Er, over there in the corner!”
He strolled over and then noticed the windscreen as well, with the all important registration and insurance stickers. “Are you racing this car, or something?” I admitted that the Sunday was to be my first day on the track with the MG, and I was trying to make it look as good as a 10 year old car could be.
Honesty certainly was the best policy (in this case at least), for it turned out that the motorcycle policeman was a motor racing enthusiast and I was let off with a warning and a proffered cup of coffee. If only all Australian policemen these days were as understanding, though I have to say that all my dealings with Thai policemen have been quite amicable - and I have never paid any money to be looked upon favorably. True!
He did suggest that when I took the car out on public roads, I should put the windscreen back on, and the bumper bars with the registration plates, so I did a quick job, using half the number of bolts and the next day drove to the race circuit. Forget fancy transporters or trailers! In those days you drove there.
So how did I go? Since the car was under a finance contract, it was against the contract conditions to race it, so that was why the records will show that an “Ian Gordon” was entered in the Sportscar scratch race in a black MGA!
So how did “Ian Gordon” do in his first race? With all true modesty, I have to report that he drove brilliantly and came third in class and won $5. A professional on my first outing! Eat your heart out, Lewis Hamilton.