What did we learn from Bahrain?
First off, I shall refrain from commenting on the
indiscretions of the boss of the FIA, Max Mosley. What he does in
his own time does not have a great bearing on whether he is capable
of running the FIA. I get more than the sneaking feeling that Mosley
was set up, and undoubtedly he has made enemies over the past decade
of his dominance at the FIA, but I don’t think Ron Dennis is
So to the race.
Well, we learned that BMW has certainly arrived with Kubica on pole
after Qualifying. (I shall refrain from writing “a drive with polish
gets a pole for a Pole” as I am sure every hack writer in the world
will have pushed this pun to the max. However, for Chiang Mai we
could probably use “Pole dancers ecstatic over Pole’s pole
Despite his pole position, Kubica’s lead lasted about three
milliseconds, as Massa just drove straight past him, followed very
shortly afterwards by his Ferrari team mate Raikkonen. From then on
it was Ferrari’s day, with Massa never putting a wheel wrong and
putting all his critics to shame with a flawless drive to win
convincingly. However, just as one swallow doesn’t make a summer, we
shall continue to watch the diminutive Brazilian with interest.
British hero, Lewis Hamilton, certainly had a day to forget. Cocked
it up at the start and fell back to 11th and then ran into the back
of Fernando Alonso and took his nose off. The British commentators
immediately screamed that Alonso had ‘brake tested’ Hamilton, though
Hamilton himself put it down to a racing incident. Commentator James
Allen did all but accuse the sulky Spaniard of reversing into
Hamilton! Personally I believe Alonso was blocking and just didn’t
accelerate as quickly as he could have. But we’ll never know.
Hamilton was philosophical, saying, “I have had such a good run in
Formula 1 until now, and it was almost inevitable that at some point
things would go wrong. However there is a long way to go in the
Championship and I intend to win it.” Kovalainen in the second
McLaren-Mercedes came fifth, but other than a fastest lap did not
impress or show any fire.
Down the back in the Toro Rosso, the much vaunted Vettel seems to be
losing the scrap with team mate Bourdais. Outqualified and failing
to finish (again). The mild mannered Frenchman Bourdais may be one
Toyota is coming good. After around six years, the auto giant has
begun to make an impression on the top half of the grid, with Trulli
finishing a strong 6th. Glock does not seem to perform to the same
standard, but at least he did not crash this time, so he is not
reading from Ralf’s notes from 2007.
Red Bull’s David Coulthard has become a bit of a charging bull, once
again involved in an overtaking mis-movement, this time with Jenson
Button. Button accused the veteran Scotsman of moving over in the
braking area, and from my seat in front of the Jameson’s big screen
telly, I would have to agree. I really begin to question Coulthard’s
lateral vision, as he has been involved in too many of these
cornering tangles. Fortunately for Red Bull, Webber is doing a
consistent job, and so far has scored all the points for the team.
This would have to be Coulthard’s swan song year, surely.
Williams had another undistinguished day, with Rosberg at least
gaining one point for 8th. Kamikaze Nakajima managed to spin all on
his own and then spent the race down the back somewhere with (not
so) Super Aguri and the mobile Indian tailors.
All in all, a rather dull race for the spectators. Let us hope the
Spanish GP is better. At least the crowd will get excited over the
Last week I asked which F1 world champion began his racing
career in a DKW in 1956? It was Jimmy Clark in Duns in Scotland.
So to this week. Who was the first to construct and race a Grand Prix car
bearing his own name? And it was not Jack Brabham!
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
More on the Motor Show
After spending two days at the Bangkok International Motor Show, I
came away with the decided impression that we are going through economic woes.
The ultimate top end vehicle manufacturers were missing (Porsche, Ferrari,
Maserati, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and the like) and the greatest interest seemed to
be in the budget end transport, such as the Naza Forza which was on the stand at
349,000 baht and can be purchased by drip-feed down to something over B. 4,000
This car was reviewed in its (almost) native Malaysia by our ‘editor at large’
John Weinthal, and he had this to say about the Forza (Sutera in Malaysia),
which is a Chinese Malay auto. Naza struck a deal with the Chinese whereby they
have exclusive manufacturing and distribution rights to all right hand drive
Thailand was also a target and Naza intends to export 60 percent of its output
within four years. This year’s figure will be about 5,000.
OK, so what’s this Sutera (Forza) like? In brief it represents probably the best
value wheels in Malaysia (and now in Thailand).
It is economical, equipped beyond reasonable expectation, efficient and a very
easy drive. Of course it is no tearaway, nor perhaps does it achieve Toyota, or
even Hyundai, quality levels. Yet!
My assessment comes after a week and some 500 km in a base GS model which never
put a wheel wrong or made any off-note noises or rattles. Of course, as ever, we
will have to await proof of long term reliability and build quality, but the
omens are fine.
Lasting memories include a bright spacious-looking interior, fine output quality
from a four speaker/two tweeter sound system with MP3 compatible CD player and
more than adequate storage spaces – but, above all, was the Sutera’s (Forza’s)
amazing ability to utilize the powerplant’s 88 Nm of torque which is available
between 2500-3000 rpm.
Allied to spot-on gear ratios this car is fine in the confines of a condo car
park, the city crawl and within the natural limits of 65 bhp, even cruising at
up to around 110 kph. Gear changing in all these situations is remarkably less
than is the norm with such small cars. Indeed another 10-20 kph is there if you
must. I’d suggest you don’t.
Another pleasant surprise was the almost total absence of wind roar or drumming
even with the power front windows open.
Remote central locking, five height-adjustable head restraints, child-proof rear
door locks, heated rear window with wiper, split-fold rear seats and even the
clear red-lit instrument lighting and excellent front mounted map reading lamp
all add to the Sutera’s (Forza’s) overall appeal.
The power steering is light but not very communicative, the gear change is
woolly and the car can feel somewhat floaty on open freeways above around 90kph.
So that’s it. Nothing exotic, little excitement but a jolly easy drive and
thoroughly ownable first (or last) car.
That report is, of course, from the Malaysian spec Naza Sutera, and there may be
some differences from the Thailand import, but at the price, this car has to be
worth a long hard look.
Jungle Adventures outside Pattaya
I was lucky to be invited on a Jungle Adventure by the EasyKart
people (www. easykart.net). This is an organized two hour tour through the
Pattaya hinterland on personal off-road transport and was certainly a fun
couple of hours.
The vehicles are either ATVs (sometimes called “quads”) or buggies. The ATVs
carry one person only, while the buggy will take two, and both are automatics.
Easy to drive/ride and both very safe. In fact ‘safety’ was an important factor
in the tour, with basic training and briefing being part of the package. You are
also fully equipped with crash helmet, goggles, mask and gloves and a bright
orange T-shirt. I also found that it would have been better to have worn a
long-sleeved shirt as the sun in the afternoon was fairly relentless. Take my
tip. Also jeans and sports shoes – no Japanese safety boots (flip-flops)!
The scrub and fields out from the Bira Kart circuit offer wonderful terrain,
with creeks, fire-trails, hills, jumps and flat out sandy curves, enough to give
any novice adventurer two hours of fun.
It is not, however, a race or rally, but you go as a group with a leader at the
front and a sweeper at the back. The speeds are enough for everyone, and the
experience is exhilarating. And fun. They do stop to let you get your breath
back and supply refreshments on the trail as well.
EasyKart will pick you up from the Bali Hai Plaza with a free shuttle bus in
time for the three trips each day at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. but I do
recommend you book as these adventure tours have become very popular. Go to
[email protected] or ring 02 203 1205-7 or 086 028 0880. The cost is very
reasonable for two hours of fun, being B. 2,300 for an ATV, B. 3,600 for a buggy
(driver) and B. 1,000 for the passenger.