Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

A1GP in Malaysia

With F1 now in the off season, A1GP continues its new season, and our motoring editor at large, John Weinthal, was present for the latest round in Malaysia, and the following is his report:

“Please explain” - Fairuz Fauzy after the bizarre and costly A1GP moment. (Photo: Tengku Alang Badeli)

After nearly 50 years watching motor racing one might think one has seen it all.
No way - This year F1 alone contributed Raikkonen punting Force India out of Monaco, Hamilton dittoing Raikkonen (and himself) at the pit exit in Canada, the Mosley MissChief, Sebastian Vettel becoming F1’s youngest ever GP winner, the FIA’s post-Spa misruling, Valencia and China’s tedia and the final lap of the year in Brazil.
Motorsport’s Fat Lady rarely drew breath ... but she managed another hi-lo when A1GP came to Malaysia’s Sepang circuit on November 23.
Grandstands were filled with yellow shirts as locals thronged to cheer series leader Fairuz Fauzy on his home track in his 600 bhp powered-by-Ferrari car - a F1 lookalike to those of the 18 other nation’s carriages.
In the Sprint race Fauzy failed to score. Nerfed by Holland’s Jeroen Bleekemolen he copped a left rear puncture. That was it as far as a points finish was concerned; another racing incident.
Starting from 4th in the Feature Race he daringly passed Lebanon into 3rd securing what looked like a sure big points finish.
Then on lap 17 the most bizarre disaster struck.
Fauzy confused his team and the watching crowds by diving into the pit lane unexpectedly. The team could do nothing but wave him back onto the track.
Radio interference from another team, who were calling in their driver, saw Fauzy pit unnecessarily. The damage was done. The gob-smacked grandstand went mute. The massed press core sighed in disbelief.
Fauzy dropped to the tail end then fought back to 11th. With seven laps to go he was more than five seconds behind 10th place Italy.
On the final lap he gave a memorable ‘all’ to take Italy and the final single point for 10th.
The crowd again had something to cheer, the pit team gave a big thumbs up - but Malaysia had tripped from its lead to fifth in the championship behind Feature Race winners Ireland and Portugal, France and New Zealand. Australia moved up to 8th behind Switzerland and Holland.
The next race will be at Taupo, New Zealand on January 25.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that the engine from an English baby car was used from 1923 until 1962. What was it? It was the Austin 7, used until 1953 in the Rosengart and up till 1962 in the Reliant.
So to this week. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the first Egyptian car (the Ramses), but let’s ask this week, what was the first Indian-built car, and what was it identical to?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Ex-Earl Howe Bugatti ‘Barn-Find’ for auction
Earl Howe was an important man in motor sport. His real name was Francis Curzon, the fifth Earl Howe, and he was synonymous with the best pre-war sports cars. A keen amateur racing driver he was elected as the first president of the British Racing Drivers Club in 1929 and retained that position until his death in 1964. He partnered Sir Henry Birkin in an Alfa Romeo to win the 1931 Le Mans, arguably his greatest achievement.

Original Bugatti T57S

I have actually been to his home and met his son, the sixth Earl Howe and viewed the trophy the old earl received at Le Mans, which was a bronze statue of Boadicea and her chariot, about one meter long, and goodness knows how heavy. On the wall of his study was a Bugatti road wheel which had broken on one of his racing cars.
He also had a road-going Bugatti, a 1937 Bugatti Type 57S of which he was the first owner, and whose existence has only been known to a handful of people during the last 50 years. It will be sold at Bonhams’ Retromobile sale in Paris on 7 February 2009. This highly significant motor car is conservatively estimated to realize in excess of €3,000,000.
This Bugatti has Atalante coachwork and after being sold by Earl Howe in 1945 went to Lord Ridley and finally ending up with a Dr Harold Carr in 1955 having bought it from Lord Ridley. Dr Carr drove the car for the first few years but in the early 1960’s it was parked in his garage where it remained for nearly 50 years, until Dr Carr’s death in 2007.
The T57S has apparently exceptional originality retaining original chassis, engine, drive train and body. It even has what appears to be a remarkably low mileage with an odometer reading of just 26,284.
So, if you want one of these Bugatti’s, you are going to have to dig deep. Converting from euros, it will be around 150 million baht, plus freight and duty. Beyond me I am afraid. I’ll just have to stick to the Daihatsu Mira.

Two coupes we don’t get here
I have just spent a week in the UK, and it was interesting to see the cars we don’t get in Thailand. The first to catch my eye was a very pretty two door Honda Coupe, based on the new Honda City we have here. It was really a very well balanced car and I just wish they would build it here. I’d buy one, Mr. Honda, I really would.

Smart coupe

The second was a very racy looking coupe, which turned out to be a Smart, but unfortunately no longer produced according to the owner I spoke to. Came with a 6 speed paddle shift sequential gearbox but only a 700 cc engine, so it does not have neck-snapping acceleration. But it did look like fun. It did not sell in large numbers and Mercedes Benz canned it.

Porsche Panamera - the first four door?
The Porsche company is finally releasing photographs and some details on the Porsche Panamera, billed as their first four door. Whilst this product will be directly targeting vehicles such as the four-door “coupes” like the popular Mercedes-Benz CLS and Maserati Quattroporte, plus Aston Martin’s upcoming Rapide, it is not the first four door, or even four seater produced by the company. Earlier prototypes of four door sedans such as the 1991 Porsche 989 prototype or the even earlier four door 911 based prototype, never went into production, although one was made for the wife of the American Porsche distributor, and two four place 911’s were also made and used as factory hacks.

Porsche Panamera
The Panamera’s name is derived, like the Porsche Carrera line, from the Carrera Panamericana race. Its official global public debut will be at the Geneva motor show in March 2009.
The exterior of the hallowed German sports car maker’s fourth model line and first four-door sedan has now been shown, revealing what resembles a stretched version of the 911 coupe, complete with four doors, an extended roofline and a large rear tailgate that actually makes it more two-box hatchback than three-box sedan.
There are currently no official images of the all-new Porsche flagship’s four seat interior, however, although Porsche says the backrests of the two individual rear bucket seats fold forward to increase luggage space. Porsche says the Panamera’s rear seats will accommodate 190 cm-tall adults in comfort.

911 four seater

Porsche has confirmed the Panamera measures 4970 mm long overall, making it about half a meter longer than the 911. At just 1418 mm high, it is relatively low-slung for a four-door but still around 130 mm taller than the 911. At 1931 mm wide, however, the Panamera is also more than 80 mm wider than even the wide-bodied all-wheel drive versions of the 911, including the 911 Turbo and GT2.
Also confirmed is an engine range that from launch will open with a 220 kW petrol V6 and extend to naturally aspirated and twin-turbocharged versions of the Cayenne’s direct-injection 4.8 liter petrol V8, the latter offering no power increase over its application in the SUV at 368 kW.
The famous Porsche boxer flat six engines will not be available in the Panamera, which is nonetheless slated to receive the two-mode petrol-electric hybrid drive train that will debut in the redesigned Cayenne SUV in 2010. There is no mention of the rumoured V10 version.
Unlike the Cayenne, however, Panamera V6 and V8 transmission choices will include a six speed manual and Porsche’s new seven speed ‘Doppelkupplungsgetriebe’ (PDK for short) double-clutch automated manual.
As expected, Porsche has also confirmed the rear-drive Panamera will additionally be available with the all-wheel drive hardware that will come as standard on the V8-powered Turbo flagship. The company says full transmission and engine details, including for the hybrid version, will be revealed in the first half of next year.
Porsche has an annual sales target of 20,000 Panameras - all of which will be assembled at its Leipzig plant in Germany, where a new 22,000 square-meter production facility and logistics center remain under construction, using engines built at its main plant in Zuffenhausen, Stuttgart and painted body shells from Volkswagen’s Hanover plant. Porsche says 70 percent of the Panamera’s components will be produced in Germany.
Porsche admits the Panamera will take some sales from its 911 and Cayenne models, but expects a modest overall sales increase as a result. And with Porsche now having the controlling interest in Volkswagen, a few Porsche shares might look good in your portfolio as you drive the family around in your Panamera.