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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

Hungarian GP this weekend

Hungaroring

As a racing venue, Hungary has a long history, with its first GP run in 1906, and regular events in Budapest since 1926. Built with state backing, and laid out in a natural amphitheatre, the Hungaroring opened in 1986 and attracted an estimated 200,000 spectators. Though the event was well organized, and the hosts very appreciative, it was felt that the 4 km Hungaroring had been laid out more in the style of a twisty street circuit rather than a bespoke road track. There were few opportunities for overtaking, though things were eased from 1989 when a tight corner was by-passed and the lap distance became slightly less than 4 km. However, it remains a circuit that is not high on any of the drivers’ lists, unless you are after a piece of quick action behind the pits, as the Hungarian government actually erected (nice word in the sex scene) some mobile brothels a couple of years ago (sponsored by Viagra?). I think they are still in use today!
After the German GP, will we get the same sort of racing? Find out this weekend.


Reps car sells for 183,500 at Goodwood auction

Lotus Cortina

The Ford Cortina was at its zenith, the car that every rep on the road was driving; however, it also formed the backbone of touring car racing in the mid-60’s.
This Lotus Cortina, registration KPU 392C, has an extremely famous background - possibly the most famous of them all, according to auction house Bonhams.
It was campaigned by Alan Mann Racing and driven by the famous British racing driver Sir John Whitmore in the 1965 European Touring Car Championship. Sir John was ruthlessly dominant that year, winning all eight races and hill climbs he entered in this car, claiming championship victory.


300 km/h on a Sunday afternoon

There are very few road cars that will allow you to clock 300 km/h and even fewer roads that could accommodate you. I’ve been there. But I hasten to add this was not on a public road, it was the Calder Raceway in Victoria, Australia, and the car was a Lola T430 Formula 5000 racing car.
This particular one was an ex-VDS (Count Van Der Straten) team car and was one of only three special order cars and was raced in Australia when F5000 was Australia’s premier open wheeled category. With a 5 liter Chevrolet V8 in the rear of the car, the weight balance was not optimal. In fact, the owner of this particular Lola described driving it as attempting to throw a sledgehammer handle first!
In their day they were as fast as the Formula 1 cars of the time and they are still spectacularly fast. Former owners have found that things happen very quickly and you have to be both mentally and physically ready for that.
The engine started easily and a dab on the accelerator produces a very deep growl from the engine behind your head. You know you have 550 bhp behind you.
The Hewland gearbox on a car like this has no synchromesh, and the ‘dog’ gears select with a clunk and have a rattle at idle - this is not dangerous but it is disconcerting at first.
The clutches on these race cars are not the soft pressure progressive clutches of a manual road car, and do tend to be in or out, so getting away from rest is a little tricky. I was pleased I did not stall it.
Once trundling down the track you can begin to take stock of your surroundings and tentatively start driving this heavy beast with a little more throttle and some precision. However, it isn’t easy. At low speeds, the engine with the full race camshafts, is very “lumpy” and corners seem to be taken in a series of lunges. This was not the way to drive a Formula car.
The answer was to begin to use more loud pedal and drive the car deeper into the corners. By making the front tyres bite as you turn in under brakes, you could then feed in the power to control the rears and avoid too much oversteer. With all the horsepower at your disposal, cornering is done by the right pedal, and corrections are done by the steering wheel!
One adjustment you have to make is for the acceleration of race cars like this. Zero to 100 km/h comes up in less than three seconds. You are no sooner out of one corner than to find the next one rushing up and it’s back on the brakes, turn in, throttle out, and then the next! By the time you are half way through one corner, you are preparing yourself mentally for the next, and looking down the track for the braking marker.
Further exploration in the braking/cornering/accelerating out meant that I was coming on to the Calder Raceway straight at higher and higher speeds, allowing me to reach the magic 300 km/h before the braking area at the bottom. You also get a feeling of elation, as you feel yourself winning the man/machine contest, but the danger is complacency! There is a condition amongst older race drivers called the “Lola limp” after being caught out and ending up using their feet as front bumpers. Before you ask, I do not limp. But I have done 300 km/h on quite a few occasions!


Thailand’s F1 bid not dead yet?

With Bangkok throwing in the towel as host to an F1 round, it was then put forward that Phuket might like it, but no real concrete facts to back up the claim.
Not withstanding the Phuket offer, the next site to hold its hand up is Pattaya, which I think is just a pipe dream by the administration. So just where would we build an F1 track here? The Bira circuit is too small, and Bang Saen too narrow, so it would have to be a new circuit.
Now factor in the fact that our Bernie, the patron saint of F1 is looking at a sizable jail term for bribery in Germany if the decision goes the wrong way, so the top dog won’t be in the position to say yes or no, and pocket the millions.
So, as far as Thailand hosting an F1 round - don’t hold your breath!


Bangkok to rock with the ROC

News to hand of the Race of Champions (ROC) venue for 2013 to be Bangkok once more. The Rajamangala Stadium will be used again and the dates will be December 14, 15.
The ‘Champions’ come from many categories of motor sport, including F1, Rallying, MotoGP, Indycar and Le Mans. Several (non-champion) drivers were also invited to ensure representation from different countries (including Thailand).
Team winners have come from Germany for the past six years with their two top drivers Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, with the individual winner being Romain Grosjean (France, F1).
The Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) claims that last year’s ROC event was the largest motor sport event in Thailand, but I somehow doubt that. The Rajamangala stadium seats 50,000 and the place was not filled last year. In 2010 a reputed 150,000 showed up to watch Mark Webber do his F1 demonstration runs on Ratchdamnoen Avenue.


Honda returns to F1

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. last week announced that it will base its European racing operation in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom, in preparation for participation in the FIA F1 World Championship from the 2015 season.
Honda will participate in F1, under a joint project with McLaren, as a supplier of the power unit including the engine and energy recovery system from the 2015 season.
The new facility will be the European frontline operation for Honda’s F1 participation and will rebuild and maintain the power units developed at Honda R&D center in Tochigi, Japan. Honda will also base its trackside support operations from this new European office.
This office will be located in the new engine research and development center of Mugen Euro, where Honda plans to start operations from June of 2014.
Whilst the development and manufacture of Honda’s F1 power units will take place at the R&D center in Tochigi, Japan, it was important for Honda to establish a European facility to support its racing operation. The U.K. is an ideal location; it is the home of McLaren, many F1 suppliers are U.K. based and with seven of the 19 races taking place in Europe (2013), the U.K. acts as a global hub for the transportation of parts as well as team personnel.
The office operations include rebuilding and maintenance of power units, and trackside support and Engineer office for WTCC activities.
Yasuhisa Arai, Senior Managing Officer and Director, Chief Officer of Motorsports, Honda R&D Co., Ltd. Said, “With the confirmation of a new F1 operation base in U.K., our preparation to join F1 has become more specific and concrete. To meet and exceed the expectations of our fans, we will accelerate our development to bring back the unique Honda engine sound onto the track.”
So despite the abject failure of their F1 challenge of a few years ago, Honda will again be seen on the F1 stage from 2015. Wish them luck!


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Hungarian GP this weekend

Reps car sells for 183,500 at Goodwood auction

300 km/h on a Sunday afternoon

Thailand’s F1 bid not dead yet?

Bangkok to rock with the ROC

Honda returns to F1