What did we learn from the Belgian GP?
What a difference a track makes! After boring
Valencia came Spa, a track universally liked, and a track that
delivered passing, intrigue, subterfuge, suspense, action and drama.
I will get straight to the point. I do not believe that Kimi
Raikkonen won the Belgian GP fairly, and since I was not the only
person to spot the first corner pass, I just wonder where the
stewards were looking when Raikkonen went off whilst in fourth
place, drove around with all four wheels on the run-off area, cut
the corner and rejoined the race in third and had enough momentum to
carry him through to second. At the last count, a pass has to be
done on the racing surface, and the run-off area isn’t it. Oh, I
forgot, he drives a Ferrari…
A wonderful result for Team Poppadum! “Veteran” Fisichella scores
pole position and (really) won the Belgian GP. A magnificent effort.
There is, however, no truth in the rumor that the Vindaloo curry he
had at lunchtime made him go that little bit quicker. His team mate
Sutil, by comparison, was nowhere. Perhaps he stuck with the
There is rumor that Fisi will be driving the second Ferrari at Monza
in place of Badoer, who has proved he is most certainly out of his
depth. If Fisi doesn’t take the seat there are several hundred
drivers who would be ready, and quicker than luckless Luca. The
Scuderia can get me on [email protected]
Renault had an interesting time in the pits. The chap who didn’t get
the right front wheel on properly in Hungary was reprieved and
switched to the left front wheel for Spa. Same result, ending with
frantic calls to Alonso to come back in before another wheel fell
off for another $50,000 fine. His team mate Grosjean tangled with
the lack-luster Button (Brawn GP) with both blaming each other. It
doesn’t really matter, neither was going to get into the points.
While still on Renault, the FIA are investigating whether Piquet
Junior was told to crash at Singapore last year so that the safety
car would be deployed to allow Alonso to be safe out front and
enable the win. Has Junior been opening the Renault closet, I
Back to Spa, Button started on 14th while Barichello, the pensioner,
was on fourth grid slot. What is wrong with Button? I think he has
simply dropped his bundle as the thought of perhaps winning the
driver’s title keeps him awake at night. Again a mighty drive by the
Brazilian, though the starting problem must be fixed. This was not
the first time this year.
Red Bull scored a third with Vunderkind Vettel, to bring himself
back into contention, while Mark Webber joined the bundle droppers
after scoring a drive-through penalty for a lapse by the lollipop
man. Actually the situation is simply fixed by having a two lane pit
BMW were up there, though not podium material. Are Kubica and
Heidfeld trying to get brownie points before a new owner comes along
for the team?
McLaren-Mercedes scored some points with Kovalainen, while Lewis
Hamilton ended up in the wall with Button, Grosjean and Algy for
Rosberg scored another point for Williams, while Knuckles Nakajima
and Luckless Luca provided good opportunities for the other drivers
to practice passing.
Roll on Monza. Another good track.
Last week I wrote about the 1936 Rolls-Royce Phantom III, a motoring legend in
many ways. Wonderful engineering, silky smooth engine and a modern suspension -
and I asked who developed its front suspension? It was General Motors!
So to this week. What RPM was the red line in an E-Type Jaguar?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
If you are looking for a bargain, forget all about new cars and
discounts or better specs offered free by the sales people. Quite frankly, there
is no such thing as a ‘cheaper’ new car. The price is fixed but you can get some
minor price lowering with heavy bargaining, all of which isn’t worth it in the
No, the way to find bargains is to look at two to three year old secondhand
vehicles. The initial depreciation is over and there are plenty of models in the
second hand car lots for you to compare.
I came across the following figures in a UK source and there are some lessons to
be learned, even though some of the vehicles listed are not available here - but
the principles are the same.
The 10 models which retained the least of their original list price (as a
percentage) after three years and 64,000 kays were as follows:
1. Alfa Romeo 166 - 14.4%
2. Rover 45 / MG ZS - 20.3%
3. Rover City Rover - 20.4%
4. Rover 75 / MG ZT - 21.3%
5. Proton Impian - 22.0%
6. Mitsubishi Space Star - 22.5%
7. Nissan Terrano - 22.9%
8. Alfa Romeo 156 - 24.2%
9. Renault Laguna - 24.3%
10. Cadillac CTS - 24.8%
Alfa Romeo’s 166 holds the dubious honor of being the worst depreciating car in
the UK, retaining a mere 14.4 percent of its original price after three years.
Rover and MG cars, such as the 45/ZS and 75/ZT, fare little better, just
managing to hold on to 20 percent of their values over the same period. Models
from a number of other manufacturers feature in the ‘bottom 10’ - including
Proton, Mitsubishi and Nissan - and none of these achieves a residual value
better than 25 percent.
The 10 worst-performing cars all shared one feature which has a negative impact
on their low retained values: they were superceded models. But it’s not all bad
news for the cars at the bottom of the depreciation pile. This is an area where
bargains really do abound. Many of them are not “bad” cars, but tend to be
semi-orphans, without service centers locally. For example, just where do you go
to get your Alfa serviced here? Likewise, a Renault? These are not bad cars and
at the lower end of the depreciation stakes make good bargains.
The above also holds true for popular makes/models. For example I saw a fully
loaded three years old diesel Fortuner, for 500,000 baht less than its new
price. Why? Because there was a model upgrade between then and now, and another
upgrade planed in a couple of years time.
If you are in the car market, I suggest you spend a few weekends just finding
the average prices of late model vehicles and contrasting the price with the
price that was paid at the showroom. You will find a bargain.
The Brits finally blow the steam record
At a cost of several millions, the British Steam Car Challenge
team has finally smashed the 100 year old steam land speed record. By a
whole 26 km/h. The ghost of Fred Marriott, the driver who drove the Stanley
Steamer to its record of 205.5 km/h in 1906, must still be laughing. After
103 years, is that the best that modern British technology can do?
Apparently it is, as the new record holder is being retired to a museum.
British Steam Car Challenge confirmed that it had hit a peak speed of 219.04
km/h on its first attempt and 243.15 km/h on its second run along a dry lake
bed at Edward’s Air Force Base in California.
record holder (just).
These speeds, which are yet to be accepted by the Federation Internationale de
l’Automobile (FIA) which oversees record attempts, betters the 205.5km/h record
set in a Stanley Steamer in 1906. Once ratified, the record run will be an
average of the British Steam Car’s two runs - 231.09 km/h.
So how did the much vaunted British technology beat the Stanley Steamer? The
three-tonne, 7.6 meter streamlined ‘‘Inspiration’’, as the car is named, was
made from a mixture of carbon fiber and a steel space frame chassis.
The steam came from purified water that was superheated to 400 degrees Celsius
in 12 LPG-fuelled boilers filled with more than three kilometers of tubing, at
the rate of 50 liters a minute. It was then fed into a turbine at twice the
speed of sound, generating only a meager 268 kW of power at 12,000 rpm but an
enormous amount of torque.
The car took about four kilometers to reach its peak speed, and another four
kilometers to stop. To set the new record, the BSCC team had to turn the car
around within an hour to make the second run. They made it with eight minutes to
Driver Charles Burnett said the steam car handled beautifully, making it a “true
testament to British engineering. All systems worked perfectly - it was a really
good (first) run,” Burnett said. “The second run went even better and we clocked
a speed in excess of 240 km/h.”
However, the record run was well short of the team’s ambitious 320 km/h speed
target that it set before making the attempt.
Late news: I have just been given a very secret memo that a team from Thailand
will attack this new record next year. The basis is a three wheeled noodle cart,
using a gas ring and a kettle on top. The steam produced will be used to drive a
turbine to assist the man on the pedals. The Thai engineers estimate that 240
km/h should be well within its sights, but are worried about the turnaround time
of one hour, as the preparation for the lunchtime som tum will probably be the
The sad part about this new land speed steaming “record” is the fact that the
Brits are shaking hands with themselves, having nudged the speed up by a whole
26 km/h. The entire effort is more like a Monty Python sketch, rather than a
really great engineering achievement.
The old record holder.
Here comes the Mini Coupe
To be released at the Frankfurt show, BMW have sent the teaser
shots of the new Mini Coupe. Now, who remembers the Mini Jem? It was built
in 1968 and was also available as a kit car. There is a certain similarity
here, in concept, if nothing else.
While the new Mini concept car has a luxurious leather-lined interior,
production versions of the Coupe will come with the same materials and trims as
existing Mini models.
The Coupe uses the same front wheel drive platform as well as the aluminium
intensive strut (front) and multi-link (rear) suspension and electro-hydraulic
steering system from existing versions of the Mini -which means it should drive
just like the ordinary Minis.
The engine in the Frankfurt concept is the same turbocharged 1.6 liter four
cylinder engine used in the performance top of the range John Cooper S Works,
which develops 155 kW of power and 280 Nm of torque.
Factory figures indicate 0-100 km/h inside 7.0 seconds and reach a top speed of
around 240 km/h.
Production versions of the new car should also be available with the less
powerful 128 kW turbocharged 1.6 liter four cylinder engine from the Cooper S.