What did we learn from the Singapore GP?
Well, the event was a huge success. We learned
that Beyonce Knowles wears revealing dresses, several Singaporean
ladies will do anything to get in front of a TV camera, thousands of
liters of champers were gargled, several tonnes of canapés were
consumed and Lewis Hamilton’s girlfriend wears red dresses. Did we
learn anything else? Oh yes, as far as a motor race was concerned,
it was another giant yawnfest.
However, Lewis Hamilton, spurred on by what was waiting for him in
the pits, carried out a faultless drive to win easily. And by the
way, we also learned McLaren-Mercedes’ secret code, and in case you
missed it when you nodded off around lap 20 it is “Default X30”.
That is what Lewis Hamilton was told to punch into the on-board
computer. I did try entering this code into the family Fortuner on
the way home, but got a message in Japanese, which translated as
“Don’t be sirry!” And what about McLaren’s other driver Kovalainen?
We never really saw him during the race and he ended up at the back
end of the points, but that will not be enough to save his seat for
2010. Even Hamilton, the ultimate diplomat, said about his team
mate, “…clearly he did a good job today, possibly.”
Glock’s second place for Toyota was a sterling effort, but where was
Trulli? Was he actually in the same race? They are already painting
out his name on the changing room door. Goodbye Jarno.
Prize for the most socially unacceptable behavior must go to Alonso
(3rd). Is he so thick he didn’t understand Renault’s punishment by
the FIA, and the leaving (with immediate effect) of principal
sponsor ING? To say in the post race interview, “And I dedicate this
podium to Flavio - he is at home but he is part of the success we
had today.” Gaffe of the year, Fernando.
The Red Bull challenge faded, and with it the hopes of world
championships for Vettel and Webber. Speeding in the pit lane for
the young German with a subsequent drive-through, and ceding
positions for the old Aussie after going wide on the first lap. He
was told by his pit to allow Alonso and Glock to pass him, and he
replied “Why Glock?” Considering that Raikkonen did exactly the same
thing at Spa and was not penalized - but then one is a blue car and
the other was a red car, and as we all know, red cars have
preference. Webber finally exited from the race backwards after his
brake disc disintegrated. This was after he had been in the pits and
the mechanic scooped out brake material from the cooling duct, but
they let him out. The team was about to call him back, when the
brake decided to call it a day.
As for the rest of the runners, dismal. Synchronized retirements for
Toro Rosso, penalty for Rosberg in the Williams, Ferrari nowhere,
Knuckles Nakajima trundling around somewhere, and Team Poppadum
getting Sutil’s nose neatly sliced off by a BMW, and to then get a
$20,000 fine. That’s a lot of plates of vindaloo. At least it was a
little bit of action.
Almost forgot Button and Barichello. Uninspired racing, but by
default leaving them both at the top of the points.
However, the “racing” was neatly summed up by Hamilton post-race who
said, “I have my girlfriend here. I got to meet Beyonce here, so it
has been overall an incredible weekend. A great experience. I am
very, very happy and I look forward to the celebration tonight.”
I’m glad he did, the rest of us are looking forward to Japan and the
return of real racing.
Last week I asked how many Bugatti Royales were sold to the crowned heads of
Europe? The answer was none!
So to this week. Which amphibious car manufacturer sold more than 3,000 cars?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
The Great Grand Prix Scandal!
With everyone aghast at Renault and the rigging of the race in
Singapore last year, let me assure you that was nothing compared to the 1933
This GP was a star spangled affair, proposed by Marshall Italo Balbo, the
Military Governor and Viceroy of Libya. They decided to throw in a nationwide
lottery held in conjunction with the GP. The concept was simple. Twelve lucky
punters would draw one of the names of the twelve drivers, and the winning
driver and his ticket holder would share the prize money. Prize money - ah, how
does 860 million baht sound? It was enough to get some of the greatest racing
brains more than slightly revved up.
So the plot was hatched. Four of Italy’s best drivers, Nuvolari, Varzi, Campari
and Borzacchini got together with the holder of the “Varzi” ticket and they
agreed to pool their winnings and share the proceeds, after Varzi had won the
event with their help.
Of course, there were eight drivers not “in the know” and any one of these could
ruin the master plan. In the first few laps, that was just how it looked as Sir
Henry (Tim) Birkin, stiff upper lip and all, roared into the lead in his
Fortunately, the Englishman developed tyre trouble and after a botched pit stop
rejoined well down. Unfortunately, Varzi also had tyre trouble and his pit stop
took even longer. During the lengthy stop his engine temperature rose and when
Varzi rejoined, the Bugatti was definitely off song.
Meanwhile, at the sharp end of the race there were the three Italian
co-conspirators. On cue, Campari and Borzacchini developed tyre and mechanical
problems and they dropped out, leaving Nuvolari in the lead.
Once again Birkin became a bother as he stormed through the field to get within
10 seconds of Nuvolari, by the half way mark, who was driving looking over his
shoulder for the non-appearing Varzi!
Again luck was on their side as Birkin’s tyres said enough and the English
threat was over. However, there was now another problem. No matter how slowly
Nuvolari was driving, Varzi’s sick Bugatti could not catch it. With great
creative thinking, Nuvolari began to make several unannounced pit stops,
changing anything that was changeable on the Alfa Romeo. This became so frequent
that one mechanic was heard to mutter, “We’ve rebuilt everything. If he comes in
again it must be for a pee.”
Now while this managed to get Varzi back into the lead, the locals began to get
restive. They could smell a rather large rodent. Race fixing was almost a
national pastime in the camel racing stakes, and after all they had been
perfecting it for over 2000 years. There were now 90,000 enraged locals and 11
unhappy ticket holders, but it looked as if Nuvolari was going to be forced to
Again fate smiled on the “Varzi” ticket holder, when his driver scorched into
the pits, ripped off the air filter and the Bugatti sprang to life again.
Simultaneously Nuvolari experienced genuine tyre problems and was forced to pit.
When he rejoined, Varzi was in the lead and the two Italians put on a brilliant
display of scripted choreographed racing, with Varzi getting to the chequered
flag first. He declined his lap of honour and Nuvolari quietly disappeared. But
the race was not to end there.
There were numerous protests, probably ninety thousand and eleven. After
deliberations, the Club Royale degli Automobile di Libia cleared all four
drivers of any wrong doing. Cynics noted that within a few weeks three of the
five board members were driving new Lancias, the fourth a new Alfa while the
fifth suddenly found the money to visit an aged uncle in Chicago.
The only real loser (other than the 11 remaining ticket holders) was in fact
Marshall Balbo who died a war hero after being shot down by his own
anti-aircraft gunners! Perhaps a fitting end?
Footnote: Since I was not around for this Grand Prix, I must acknowledge the
work and words of wisdom of my late friend Leo McAuliffe, who had researched all
the details for this article.
We had the Red Baron, and now here is
the Black Baron
German performance vehicle manufacturer Brabus has done it again
with the “world’s most powerful high-performance sedan”. Brabus has a
history of churning out high performance sedans, but the new Brabus E V12,
‘one of ten’ unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show 2009, outdoes all previous
Dubbed the ‘Black Baron’, the car features a newly developed SV12 R Biturbo 800
12 cylinder displacement engine boasting a rated power output of 800 hp (588 kW)
and 1,420 Nm of torque, which is able to propel the car to a ridiculous top
speed of more than 370 km/h (230mph) and zero to 100 km/h in 3.7 seconds. (I
want one, but do I need one!)
Based on the new 2010 Mercedes E-Class W 212, modifications include a revised
front bumper, new front quarter panels, side sills, and Citroen-like rear wheel
covers that are there to aid the aerodynamics of the car, but look dreadful,
The high-performance sedan is equipped with 12 piston aluminum fixed calipers
and vented and grooved steel brake discs measuring 380 x 37mm at the front, and
six piston aluminum fixed calipers gripping discs measuring 360 x 28mm at the
Only ten of the Brabus E V12 sedans of the “one of ten” edition will be built
and sell for USD$875,000.