The Bangkok F1 debate
I was honored to receive a special DVD from Phillip Neal, an
enthusiast in the UK. The subject was a race in Thailand at the Bira circuit,
following a demonstration in Bangkok, along the route for a Grand Prix proposed
by Prince Bira in 1939. The Bangkok GP, scheduled for December 1939, came to
naught with the outbreak of WW II, but fast forward to 1988, and the concept was
taken up by Narisa Chakrabongse, the daughter of Prince Chula, with the idea of
having Prince Bira’s famous cars to run here in Thailand.
The run in Bangkok was up Ratchadamnoen Avenue and round the Democracy monument
and was also used a couple of years ago when Mark Webber drove the Red Bull F1
car in Bangkok. Back in 1988 there were 250,000 spectators to see Prince Bira’s
pre-war ERA’s “Romulus” and “Remus” make the runs. That’s right, 250,000 Thais
turned out to see Thailand’s most famous race car driver’s cars, and imagine
what might have been, had WW II not intervened.
The race at our local Bira circuit saw many historic pre-war cars take part,
some from the UK and others from Australia. In fairy tale fashion, it was the
Prince’s blue ERA which took the lead on the last lap and held it to the finish.
A little ‘staged’, but who cares? It was just fantastic to see it.
Fast forward again to today and we have just had the Race of Champions in
Bangkok. 2012 World Driver’s Champion Sebastian Vettel was not too enthusiastic
over the Bangkok Grand Prix concept. He cited an already full program of Grands
Prix during the year, and also noted that less than 150,000 spectators were
present at the Rajamangla stadium and that Thailand had no drivers in the top
echelon for the Thai people to cheer on.
However, remember that 250,000 people turned out for a demonstration in Bangkok
in 1988. There is enthusiasm for all things Thai. It is time for the powers that
be in government to get behind local young drivers and foster their talent. That
takes real money, not just platitudes and photo-ops.
Toyota’s Akio Toyoda is Autocar’s Automotive Hero 2012
Toyota’s president and chief executive Akio Toyoda has been
named man of the year by Autocar magazine’s editor-in-chief Steve Cropley.
“Toyota started the year in a difficult position, yet Akio Toyoda has brought
redemption to the company after a succession of damaging safety scares, then
launched an extremely aspirational and impressive ‘halo’ car, the Toyota GT86,”
said Cropley. “Akio Toyoda, Autocar’s man of the year, is definitely the right
man for the job.”
Akio was the top man, with the runners up being:
Gerry McGovern - Land Rover design chief
Alan Mulally - Ford president and chief executive
Adrian Newey - F1 - Red Bull
Alex Zanardi - Paraolympian - 2 golds and 2 silvers in 2012
Lord Charles - March Goodwood
Ratan Tata - Chairman Tata group
Andy Green - World’s fastest man
Dr Martin Winterkorn - Chairman of the board of management, Volkswagen AG
Charles Morgan - Morgan chairman
Electric Vehicles go on trial in the UK
Zenith, a leading UK independent leasing and fleet management
company, has reported very positive feedback from a trial of electric vehicles.
The trial does indicate that electric vehicles have a future in business
Employees have been using two Nissan Leaf models for the last three months, with
the aim of assessing the real world viability of electric vehicles and in
particular for fleets. Employees were given the opportunity to use the two
vehicles for short, local trips or to book one for longer journeys or to use for
up to a week at a time.
Tim Buchan, Zenith’s Chief Executive Officer commented, “This has been a very
interesting exercise. Almost without exception, our employees love the Nissan
Leaf to drive, but reservations remain around the range and charging the
vehicles, particularly charging times and availability of charging points. Our
employees really rated the cars for driving in the local area and they could
save money on fuel by charging the cars at work. We believe electric vehicles do
have a use for businesses, particularly as pool cars to be used for short
journeys, for longer trips within the range or where there is an overnight stop
when it can be charged. Improving charging times and practicality of charging
would assist their take-up, as would increases in range. We know that
manufacturers are working hard to improve technology and expect that these
limitations will be overcome with further investment.
So it all comes back to range anxiety and ease of recharging for totally
electric vehicles such as the Leaf. That will be the best selling point for the
Chevrolet Volt, with its own on-board engine/dynamo to recharge on the run.
Motorways at night
Careful at night.
These motoring tips come from Britain’s top advanced driver,
Peter Rodger of the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM). This week, with the
shortest day of the year, he is advising on driving on the motorway at night.
Driving in the dark can cause fatigue - plan your journey, scheduling at least
one stop every two hours. Don’t ignore warning signs of fatigue. In extreme
cases, have a caffeine drink and sleep for 20 minutes while it takes effect. You
can only do this once per journey; it won’t have the same effect if you do it
more than once.
Share the driving if possible. Many stretches of motorway are not lit during
hours of darkness - to improve your view as far as possible, keep your lights,
mirrors and windscreen clean. Watch for tell-tale brake lights up ahead to
foresee any changes in traffic speed or queues which you may be joining. Make
sure you can stop safely within the distance you can see to be clear. If you
break down, pull over on to the hard shoulder and stop as far to the left as you
can, pointing your wheels in towards the left. When stopped on the hard
shoulder, leave your vehicle and get as far away from the road as possible,
behind the crash barrier, and up the bank if there is one.
Rodger said, “Although motorways are our safest roads, darkness brings with it
additional challenges which increase the risk of fatal accidents. Plan your
journey from beginning to end and take necessary precautions to keep yourself
and your family safe this Christmas.”
(With our Motorway being very busy over the festive season, and the traffic here
not being as ordered as in the UK, making sure you are not overtired is
Does your car have a ‘black box’?
I came across an interesting item in Detroit News, where they
reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is
expected to finalize a long-awaited proposal to make event data recorders (EDRs
or black boxes) standard on all new vehicles.
In 2010, Congress considered requiring EDRs in all vehicles by legislation.
However, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers - the trade group representing
Detroit’s Big Three automakers, plus Toyota Motor Corp and Volkswagen AG - said
the government needs to take into account driver privacy.
“Event data recorders help our engineers understand how cars perform in the real
world but looking forward, we need to make sure we preserve privacy. Automakers
do not access EDR data without consumer permission, and any government
requirements to install EDRs on all vehicles must include steps to protect
consumer privacy,” said spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist.
NHTSA says the “rulemaking to mandate EDRs across the entire light-vehicle fleet
could contribute to advancements in vehicle designs, and advanced restraint and
other safety countermeasures.” However, many manufacturers already include them
in all vehicles, including General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Mazda.
In May 2010, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers endorsed making EDRs
mandatory in all vehicles, but expressed concerns that some in Congress wanted
more elaborate and expensive ones than are available, despite their having been
in use for 20 years.
For example, GM began widely installing the predecessor version of today’s event
data recorders in vehicles in the 1990 model year, and they became standard
equipment in light-duty vehicles in the 1995 model year.
So to be perfectly frank, it looks to me that the NHTSA are flogging the horse
that is already dead. However, I have to also admit I did not know that these
black boxes were already installed in almost every vehicle already.
Late news re the Bangkok F1 race
Singapore F1 at night.
The latest rumor is that Thailand is on the calendar for
2015, and it is a night race on Rajadamnoen Avenue. Bernie Ecclestone has
apparently revealed that a Grand Prix in Thailand is likely to be added to the
F1 calendar in 2015.
Kanokphand Chulakasem, governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, said in
October that he was working with F1 organisers to bring a race to the country
and it appears superficially that he may have been successful.
It has been reported that 60 percent of the annual fee will be covered by the
Thailand government with drinks companies Red Bull and Singha contributing the
I still remain skeptical, but it certainly could happen now that the AEC is
looming, Singapore has a race and Malaysia has a race, and Malaysia is building
a second circuit. Thailand never likes looking second best or even third best
within ASEAN. We are, after all, the “hub” of everything, so that should include
So will it really happen? Watch this space.
With New Jersey and Russia already set to be added to the schedule in 2014, and
should Thailand then come on board, further pressure will be placed on current
circuits to keep their places if the cap of 20 races is to be adhered to.
Last week I asked which car had its bonnet changed to thinner
steel during production to act as a crumple zone? The answer is just about all
of them since the 1960’s. Mercedes were the first to incorporate crumple zones
So to this week. We’ve just had Xmas and bob-sleighs. Which supercar
manufacturer became involved in a racing bob-sleigh project?
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email