Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

International motorcycle racing - Isle of Man TT 2008

My motorcycling editor at large, Alan Coates, sent me this item from UK about his latest trip to the Isle of Man. Alan was one of the official photographers for the races this year, and one of his photographs is attached to this UK report.
Last year, 2007, the Centenary year, there were a number of one-off social events preceding the seven TT races (two sidecar, three for 1000cc machines and one for 600cc ‘bikes). This format was changed slightly for 2008 without as many social events and with the addition of a second race for 600cc class.

John McGuiness

The Isle of Man Steam Packet Co. have, for many years, sponsored various classes of racing on the Saturday following Race Week. These take place around the Billown Circuit near Castletown. The event is perceived as an appeasement to those spectators that are unable to leave the island due to lack of capacity on their ferries.
For 2008, these races were incorporated into the official TT race programme and were for two-stroke machines, Ultra lightweight (125cc) and Lightweight (250cc).
John McGuiness was the man of 2007 with two wins, two second places and the outright lap record of 130 mph to his credit. The expectancy for 2008 was that John would do well again, but as luck would have it, mechanical breakdown and magnificent performances by the colonials Bruce Anstey and Cameron Donald reduced McGuiness’s tally to a single win in the Gold Ribbon event, the Senior TT, and two second places in Superstock and Supersport Race 1.
Cameron Donald surprised many with his brilliant riding to win two of the big capacity races, the Superbike and Superstock classes. Fellow New Zealander veteran Bruce Anstey won the second of the 600 Supersport races while last years newcomer Steve Plater was gifted the win in the first Superstock due to a technical infringement.
Once again there was heartbreak for the sidecar men who are noted for the length and depth of machine preparation; next year’s outfit is conceived at the end of this year’s TT meeting. Dave Molyneux, one of the most popular and heroic riders (having come back from serious injury in a monumental crash in 2006) failed to make it to the start line in sidecar race 1 when his clutch expired exiting the paddock. Nick Crowe and passenger Mark Cox took the honours in both sidecar races while John Holden was second in race 1 and Molyneux managed second in race 2.
Overall the weather was kind for racing again, there were no delayed starts or postponed races in 2008. There was a full programme of events on non-race days which included a 1/8 mile sprint along the promenade in Ramsey, a true “Run-what-you-brung” occasion. Memorable for me was my first on the road sighting of the 1300cc Suzuki B King muscle bike. This was ridden down the strip by BSB Superbike racer John Reynolds with some style. The spinning, squirming rear wheel of the big Suzuki shrouded in a pall of blue smoke for the entire run is something I will remember for some time. For enthusiasts who follow the older machines the Vintage Owners club organised a number of events where members displayed a wide variety of original bikes.
For those of you who wish to know more about the TT, the official (and free) website for the IOM TT is I can heartily recommend a visit here since not only does the website have 2008 race and practice results but also the results going back to the start of the TT in 1907. There are also analysis of the history of the TT in a database that covers machines, riders, podiums and much more.
Thanks Alan. Enjoy the warmth of the British winter!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned Archie Scott-Brown who was a driver of incredible courage, competing at the top level with only one usable arm. There was another driver, an American, who won championships on both dirt and asphalt with one hand and a hook. I asked what was his name?
It was of course Mel Kenyon. Kenyon has seven USAC National Midget championships, eight runner ups in the season points standings, and Top Five point finishes in 21 of 27 seasons between 1966 and 1988.
At his Motorsports Hall of Fame induction in 2003 he had 111 feature wins, 131 seconds, 107 thirds, 81 fourths, and 69 fifths, for a total of 419 Top Five finishes. He also had 688 Top 10 finishes. The totals are for USAC National midget races only, and do not include races in the NAMARS national races, regional or local races. He had counted 380 midget total feature wins, including wins in Australia and New Zealand, and three NAMARS midget championships. Kenyon competed in 65 USAC Championship (IndyCar) and eight Indianapolis 500 races. That is some CV.
So to this week, and let’s get away from dirt speedways. Mercedes-Benz tried to make a come-back in 1951. Where? And what cars did they run?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Track day in Malaysia
Our motoring editor at large is John Weinthal who has just returned from sampling some performance machinery. John wrote:

Porsche Gamballa

“CIMB is Southeast Asia’s fast growing universal services bank. It also promotes my adopted country’s Performance Car of the Year, organized by glossy [email protected] mag.
“Read all you like, chatter to all the experts, but nothing beats getting behind the wheel. Cars offered for drive or ride ran from Lambo Gallardo via assorted Lotus, Lexus, Porsches, Fairlady 350Z and VW’s rabid R32 to the chunky Volvo 2.4i C30 - an odd looking, not-so-wieldy and rather outspoken relative slow-poke; best left in the paddock.
“Missing were a WRX or Lancer EVO. The latest BMW M3, 6 Coupe and X5 were seen but not driven. I have been threatened with a play at a later date.

Lotus Exige S

“First lesson: Most, but not all, change is for the good. The maroon auto MX5 with folding tin-top was the exception and the major disappointment of the day - a fave for nearly two decades turned dog. Definitely disimproved.
“Lesson 2: Not all new is good - see Volvo C30, or preferably look the other way.
“Big Hooray: Four years ago the only good ‘F1’ paddle auto I had tried was Toyota’s prissy MRS. Maserati’s Cambiocorse on 3200GT was just hopeless. On CIMB day the latest variations in Lexus iS250, Volvo’s S40 and S60, Porsche Cayenne and Nissan 350Z convertible proved very impressive. Each was quite desirable in its own way (Nissan specially - a Porsche match in all but badge). These manual/autos just about overcame this aged guy’s prejudice for ‘proper’ manuals.
“Lesson 5: Lotus Elise and offsprogs just get better and better. Europa - Elise with hardtop - is a fantastic fun machine. Ultimate Exige S is even better - gloriously impractical but we all NEED one as fourth or fifth car!
“And 6? Small and affordable can be great. Many people’s second choice for CIMB Performance Car of the Year was the chuckable, responsive, super-communicative 1.6 liter Suzuki Swift Sport. Honda Civic Type R costs twice as much in Malaysia and impresses (a lot) only above about 4500rpm; not much use in town!
“Lesson 7 - Dr. Iain can be wrong! He writes off Porsche Cayman as ugly and a pussy. I say wrong on both counts; for me it’s gorgeous, specially viewed from 3/4 rear and flatters while inspiring the driver.
“More: Just cos it can be done is not sane excuse to do it. Cayenne S, and moreso the Turbo, reek clever engineering and are utterly pointless. Don’t confuse ability to spend big bucks with big brains, unless you are Porsche who have never banked such a money-spinner!
“Finally: It ain’t just about the car. The 650 bhp Porsche Carrera GT by Gamballa (yours for RM 3.5 million or 35 mill baht equivalent!) is awesome in straight line acceleration; sounds sensational (only rivaled by V10 Gallardo on full song) but, sadly, Porsche-supplied driver was not up to the car in the twisties.
“So what won? No arguments with the judges’ choice of Lotus Exige S!
“Thanks and congrats to CIMB and [email protected] John Weinthal.”