Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

An optimist is someone who takes their lunch to work!

The entire US auto manufacturing sector is in trouble. That’s not news, but the size of the trouble is. And the way out of trouble is bad news for many in the industry.
General Motors, which posted a huge second-quarter loss last week, said it will remove about 5,000 people from its salaried staff by November 1 as part of a cost-cutting initiative. Those cuts amount to 15 percent of GM’s North American white-collar work force. The head count move is part of a 20 percent reduction GM plans for its North American white-collar cost structure this year. It plans to reduce overhead by $10 billion over the next 17 months. GM will also suspend the dividend, cut capital spending and trim retiree benefits to meet its target. As of March 31, GM had $24 billion on hand. GM has a plan to shore up liquidity by $15 billion by the end of 2009 by implementing the $10 billion cost-cutting plan and raising another $5 billion through asset sales and collateralized loans.
One would also hope that this time it does not ‘reward’ its top brass with million dollar bonuses on top of their already stratospheric salaries.
Chrysler LLC is trying to establish partnerships with foreign auto makers to help cut costs and is talking to Tata about assembling Jeep in India, and is discussing using one of its US plants to assemble cars for Italy’s Fiat, while Nissan Motor US has announced buyout offers to 6,600 workers at two Tennessee plants in hopes of trimming about 1,200 jobs. Ford is also in the diabolicals, having to write down $2 billion in leasing losses, and the real optimists in the US are those who take their lunch to work.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that the first man to fly the English Channel was Frenchman Louis Bleriot. And I asked why should we remember him when we drive at night? The answer was Louis Bleriot made the best acetylene gas headlamps, in the days before we had dynamos to power electric ones.
So to this week. Who was the first non-Italian driver to win the ‘proper’ 1000 km Mille Miglia?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


What did we learn from the Hungarian GP?
Well the first thing we learned was that the old adage “Never count your chickens until they are proved free of bird flu” is very correct, with the H5N1 virus striking McLaren’s white hope Lewis Hamilton (and expected winner) with a puncture while running second with no real chance of passing Massa, and real race leader Ferrari’s Felipe Massa expiring with an engine blow-up three laps from home.
The race lead was then inherited by Heikki Kovalainen who lucked his way to his first GP win. However, a win is a win is a win, and the Finn almost broke the national monotone after the race with his enthusiasm.
The other Finn, the exuberant Kimi Raikkonen, was even more lucky to inherit third place, after again losing the plot and falling asleep at half distance. Kimi explained this by saying, “It was tough for me because, when you spend a long time behind a slower car it becomes frustrating and boring. When I was finally able to push, the car was behaving very well, but by then it was too late.” You’re not wrong Kimi, you’re not wrong. And those words are from the highest paid driver in F1. What Mr. Raikkonen does not seem to appreciate is that he is paid his multi-million dollar salary in return for demonstrating his ability to pass slower cars. Despite having another year to run on his contract, I still expect to see Alonso at Ferrari next year. Even the sulky Spaniard in the inferior Renault is driving better than Raikkonen at present.
A well deserved second was Timo Glock. After a year of crash testing Toyotas (the last one only two weeks ago), the young German covered himself with glory, and with Trulli also in the points has shown that perhaps, just perhaps, Toyota has really arrived at the sharp end of the field.
Renault had a much better weekend, with both drivers in the points too. After heading Raikkonen for most of the race, Alonso somehow lost it all during the second pit stop. How this happened, we are at a complete loss to know, and the abysmal television coverage certainly was not going to show us. One can only presume that Alonso had an ‘off’ and that allowed Raikkonen the leg up. Piquet just kept his nose clean and was rewarded with a sixth. Renault will keep him for 2009, provided the brown paper bag (or lunch box) stuffed with money precedent is maintained.
BMW, after being ascendant in the early part of this year has fallen off the pedestal they made for themselves. Perhaps someone has pulled the chain? Kubica did manage to get one point for his inherited eighth place, albeit 48 seconds behind the winner. His team mate Heidfeld has slipped firmly back into midfield positions, and with no safety car to help him up the order finished nowhere, which is exactly where he will be next year. BMW is not interested in mediocrity.
The Roaring Tossers had a bad weekend. Vettel who is going Red Bull in place of Coulthard had an engine failure, whilst the bespectacled Frenchman Bourdais livened up proceedings with a fire in the pits. Shame, he needs more fire in the belly, finishing last and three laps down.
The Red Bull (senior) team of seniors did not do well either, with Webber ninth and Coulthard eleventh. Maybe it had something to do with the fun park that the government erects behind the pits each year. These older chaps can’t take late nights any more.
The rest of the field are not even worth writing about. The My Earth Nightmare team were running, I believe, and as a plus, did not hit anyone. Team Vindaloo needs more curry and the Sir Frank Williams team appear to have built new wheelchairs and not racing cars.
The next GP is around the houses in Valencia August 24.

Do you want a ‘real’ pony car?
Were you one of the motoring enthusiasts that yearned after the real pony cars of the 60’s and 70’s, but couldn’t afford one then? Are you now of the age where you should be able to afford one, but genuine cars have now gone sky-high or almost unable to find? There is an answer. It is in Canada and Sean Hyland Motorsport will build it for you.

Cobra CSX 4000

The company, located in Canada’s Ontario province, offers a range of goods and services, including a reproduction Shelby Cobra, badged as the CSX4000. This vehicle is, according to Sean Hyland Motorsport, a most accurate reproduction of the famous Shelby Cobra Roadster and you can order it with either a small-block V8 or a large-block engine.
Or how about a 1965 Mustang fastback built using the latest technology, incorporated CAD designed aluminum A arm front suspension, three link rear suspension, and a 600 hp throttle body injected 6 liter modular engine, complete with 5 stage dry sump.
You can also get repros on GM or Mopar platforms, using CAD designed suspension system, four wheel disc brakes, and new 6.1 Hemi engines with power up to 800 hp. These cars are completely re-engineered and rebuilt to better than new standards with custom leather interiors, modern air conditioning, and the manufacturers say it provides the cool vintage look with modern car manners.
If you want to see more, go to http://www.seanhyland

More local motorsport
If you want to pencil in some auto racing dates, the combined Asian Festival of Speed and Supercar meeting will be at Bira August 16/17, and the GPI Motorcycle racing is the following weekend August 23/24.

Jack Lemvard

The AFOS meeting will see local touring car ace, Jack Lemvard (who currently leads the Asian Touring Car Series) and open wheeler driver Robert ‘Chawakij’ Boughey competing.
Lemvard, who is 23 years old, has been promised a drive in the World Touring Car Series by his sponsor Ocean 1 Racing, should he win the Asian Championship this year.
This has been a busy year for Lemvard, participating in a total of five touring car races around Asia and he looks set to compete in at least one round of the World Touring Car Championship.
Boughey, who is known in Thailand as Chawakij, a name given to him by Her Majesty Princess Sirindhorn, had his first and only outing in Round 3 of the Formula Asia 2.0 during the season opener at the Sepang International Circuit. The 25 year old driver did well and is looking forward to competing at his home circuit, Bira. He will be participating in the Formula Asia 2.0 Series in Thailand with March 3 Racing, teaming up with five international racers, Championship leader Felix Rosenqvist of Sweden, Benjamin Rouget from France, Zhu Dai Wei and Zhang Zhen Dong from China and the only female driver in the Series, Samin Gomez of Venezuela.