Last week I noted that one driver attempted to qualify for
the 1949 Indy 500 in a car that was 35 years old. I asked what was the car? It
was a 1914 Grand Prix Peugeot.
So to this week. There is one automaker in the USA which has been building cars
since 1896. Which is it?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Why you can’t wear a plastic helmet in F1
Crash helmets in Thailand range from laughable to ludicrous. My
favorite is the blue plastic number, unlined, with plastic straps (invariably
never done up) that must be made from recycled ice-cream buckets. And my other
‘must have’ helmet is the black plastic London Bobby’s headgear.
Like everything in motor sport, helmets too have been modified to come up with
the new skull and brain protection. Although its fundamental shape may look very
similar to those worn by drivers in the 1980’s and even the 1970’s, the
underlying design and construction technology has changed radically over the
Current Formula One helmets are massively strong and considerably lighter, now
weighing approximately 1.25 kg. Helmets are constructed from several separate
layers, offering a combination of strength and flexibility (vital to absorb the
force of large impacts). The outer shell has two layers, typically
fiber-reinforced resin over carbon fiber. Under that comes a layer formed of
vastly strong plastic, the same material used in many bullet-proof vests. Then
there is a softer, deformable layer made from a plastic based on polystyrene,
covered with the flame-proof material used in racing overalls and gloves.
The visor will be made of a special clear polycarbonate, combining excellent
impact protection with flame resistance and excellent visibility. Most drivers
use tinted visors, the insides of which are coated with anti-fogging chemicals
to prevent them misting up, particularly in wet conditions.
The latest designs are more aerodynamically efficient. Sitting directly below
the main engine air intake, helmets are increasingly shaped to assist in getting
the air smoothly into the engine.
As you would expect, the FIA have strict ‘super helmet’ requirements for Formula
One racing. To gain approval for Grand Prix use, a helmet design must pass a
number of tests, covering factors such as crush and penetration resistance and
surface friction. It must also work correctly in conjunction with the mandatory
HANS (Head and Neck Support) device. It is also very expensive!
Bikes on show at BITEC
Our motorcycling editor at large, Alan Coates, covered this
aspect of the show and we will be highlighting a few of the motorcycles over
the next few weeks. His report follows:
This year the overall impression is that the major Japanese and German
manufacturers wanted to showcase their latest offerings in the large
capacity Tourers, Sports Tourers and Muscle bikes for the Thailand market.
Of the smaller capacity machines the trend back to the look of the Vespa and
Lambrettas Italian scooters of the 1960s continues. Meanwhile another thread
of design seeks to emulate the MotoGP look with fully faired front ends and
high kick up bodywork over the rear wheel.
It was good also to see the return of the Thailand manufacturer, Tiger,
albeit with a more modest display, while Ducati were represented by a
dealership rather than the Bologna factory itself.
Not appearing were, surprisingly after last year, the T-United with their
small capacity hybrid machines. Also absent were Triumph, now on sale in
Bangkok and manufactured at Chonburi.
Of interest is that the top of the range K1200LT would appear to have
been withdrawn from the Asian market. Although technically it is still in
the model line-up it is probably due for replacement. However BMW were well
represented as follows.
HP2 Megamoto - This is an off-road (trailie) with over 110 bhp from the flat
twin engine which should give huge pulling power from the bottom of the engine
speed range. The high-quality, racing-style tubular space frame is said to give
extreme torsional stiffness. The 179 kg dry weight is impressive and BMW claim
this bike never gets out of breath and offers incredible braking points and
extreme banking at a level only offered by superbikes!
K1200 R – Sport - This naked bike (minimal half fairing) has high handlebars
more precise handling, which together with its long wheelbase should give a
stable ride while sat in a more upright position. The in-line 4-cylinder engine
produces 163 bhp and 127 Nm and can come with state-of-the-art ABS system
K1200 GS – Enduro - Again, using the “Boxer” twin cylinder fuel injected engine,
this enduro style machine has 105 bhp and 115 Nm torque at modest revs, more
suited to an off-road performer than a street bike of 1200 cc capacity.
R1200 RT – Tour - The “RT” is promoted as a long distance tourer with full on
board luggage and capabilities to cover thousands of kilometres. A tailor-made
package of comprehensive accessories with a wide range of technical features is
available for adaptation to individual owner touring needs, with ABS as
Two models were on display, courtesy of a local dealer.
1098S - This lightweight (171 kg) bike utilizes the familiar, L-Twin cylinder, 4
valve per cylinder Desmodromic, liquid cooled engine uprated to the ‘S’
performance with 160 BHP produced at 9750 rpm. The new 1098 S has achieved the
status of the highest performance Ducati street bike ever by reducing weight to
the minimum and adding world-class components to an already excellent design.
Suspension is of the very highest performance standard. The forks are fully
adjustable Ohlins units, 43 mm at the front and a single unit at the rear
mounted to a single-sided swing arm. The Ohlins package is completed with an
adjustable steering damper.
This package does not come cheap, retailing at 14,000 pounds sterling or about 1
million baht before import!
Monster - Powered by the smaller 992 cc air-cooled version of the desmodromic
engine giving 95 BHP at 8000 rpm the Monster is more typically a naked sports
tourer. The performance will test the endurance of the rider on this high speed
machine without significant wind protection.