Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Races - 2008

Spectators safe behind motorcycle-proof string!

(The following item is from our motorcycling editor-at-large, Alan Coates.)
I’m sure you have heard about this unique annual event which first took place 1907, yes, 101 years ago. The Isle of Man TT Races for two and three wheeled motorcycles celebrated its centenary in 2007. It was the biggest and best biker party the island has ever seen.
So, what is it all about? Well, although they are termed races, the seven events that occur during Race Week are, strictly speaking, individual time trials.
The course is entirely on closed public roads. While the tarmac surfaces are generally good; the roads are more representative of English country lanes and far removed from the 14 meters wide purpose made race tracks we see MotoGP and Superbike racing on TV. The everyday hazards of public roads are ever present; while lampposts, telephone boxes, telegraph poles and garden gateposts, etc., are nominally protected with straw bales, the risk of injury in the event of an error of judgment is high. There are no run off areas, air bags or “kitty litter” to ease a falling rider’s contact with a solid object. Sad to relate but there have been many deaths over the life of the TT Races.
Entries are up on TV racing with over 100 competitors turning out in the major events. It would be carnage to start that number of racing motorcycles at the same time so riders are now dispatched individually at 10 second intervals. A lap comprises 37.73 miles (around 64 k) and a race is either four or six laps. The 226 miles (around 384 k) is completed by the faster riders in less than two hours and the lap record currently stands at 130.354 mph (around 208 kph). By comparison MotoGP races last about 40 minutes and the record for the fastest lap ever of any MotoGP race is still held by Barry Sheene from 1977 at 130 mph.
Each year the TT Races attract about 40,000 people and 12,000 motorcycles to the island. In the main there is no charge for spectating around the course and there are numerous vantage points to see riders and machines traveling at up to 200 mph, in amazingly close proximity, within a few feet, literally. The course runs through towns, villages, countryside and over mountains so there is ample opportunity to view from a grassy bank in the middle of nowhere to the comfort of a pub beer garden.
For the two week period, Practice and Race Weeks, there is also a massive social festival with entertainment, club meets and a large program of activities and events, not all of which are motorcycle related. The locals, the Manx people, love the bikers; well do take wallets full of beer tokens which are inevitably empty save for petrol money home when we leave!
When does this all take place? 24th May to the 7th June 2008. Will you be there? I will! This will be my 30th year attending the TT and I will report back with photographs in June.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked you to identify the car in the photograph. Clue - it was French. It was a Chapron SM convertible and called Mylord. These had the Maserati V6 engine shoe-horned into the engine bay, but did nothing to revive the fortunes of neither Citroen nor Maserati.

Last week’s quiz car

So to this week. Which manufacturer who built the “Rolls Royce of motorcycles” also built a superior car? Clue - a play on words.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Anyone for a ZEV?
Yes, there are vehicles currently available that are called ZEVs. And no, they are not Russian vehicles like the ZIS and the ZIL. The ZEV is a “Zero Emissions Vehicle” which is one that produces no emissions or pollution from the vehicle when stationary or operating. Emissions of concern include particulates (soot), hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and various oxides of nitrogen.
The most stringent application of the ZEV rule is by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and for them, a ZEV is a vehicle that has no tailpipe emissions, no evaporative emissions, no onboard emission-control systems that can deteriorate over time and no emissions from gasoline refining or sales. That gets rid of the catalytic converters with one stroke of the pen.
At the moment, a number of vehicles fulfill these requirements. Notable are battery-powered electric vehicles, vehicles operating on fuel cells, compressed air vehicles (which probably don’t work as the compressed air tank would have to be the size of a house) and a number of vehicles operating on other energy sources, such as human pedal power (however, these can emit methane, depending upon the last ingestion of cabbage and baked beans).
Of course, the oil companies are not too happy with the ZEV movement, since they are raking in their highest ever profits, despite crying poor-mouth at the pumps.
Since I believe in neither the global warming hysteria (it is another Y2K scam) nor is the world about to run out of fossil fuels any day soon, that makes me a cynic, but if we look at the cleaner air we might breathe, then I’m all behind the ZEVs.

British police read the Chiang Mai Mail?
Last week I wrote about the Caparo T1, a 200 mph supercar for two. This week I read in the overseas newspapers that the police in the UK could soon give speeding crooks a bit of a shock by chasing them down in 200 mph Formula 1 supercars. Yes, it was the Caparo T1.

Police Caparo

If you missed last week’s Automania, the Formula 1 inspired Caparo T1 was designed by the same engineers who made the McLaren F1 car driven by Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen.
According to the Daily Star, the Metropolitan Police are looking to use it as a rapid response vehicle to react to 999 calls after the car was given the all-clear to be used on UK roads.
A police source said: “The Caparo would ensure officers can get to the scene of a crime faster. It’s certainly something we’ll be looking at getting.” I would imagine there will be a queue a mile long wanting to join the (very) rapid response team. What with speed cameras every km and pursuit vehicle like this, what chance has an ordinary motorist got in the UK?