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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

Korean GP this weekend

F1 Gangnam Style!

The fourth annual Korean Grand Prix is on this weekend. Following a very successful first three Grands Prix, there is quite an air of optimism this year. There was much conjecture initially as to whether the Grand Prix would go ahead, as the circuit fell behind in its completion date. Many reasons were touted, including the weather and public holidays! But 2012 was relatively trouble free.
The circuit was designed by Hermann Tilke, the man who has sketched many of the most boring circuits in the history of motor racing. However, Korea has been much better than anticipated.
On paper, the favorite for the front row has to be Vettel who has been in top form all this year and who has been on pole for the majority of the Grands Prix this year. However it is Alonso who could mathematically still take the World Driver’s Championship this year, with nobody able to challenge the reliability of the Ferrari and himself.
The other usual front runners will be snapping at his heels - Mark Webber in the Red Bull, Raikkonen in the “Lotus” and both of the Mercedes drivers Rosberg and Hamilton.
Now, important - with the time differential between here and Korea, the race on Sunday starts at 1 p.m. Thai time. Qualifying on the Saturday is 12 noon.


Pattaya private school celebrates Diesel’s anniversary

Regents at Ford.

No, not Vin Diesel, but the 100 years anniversary of the death of Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of the diesel engine.
Diesel, who died on 29 September 1913 after falling overboard from a ferry travelling from Belgium to England, was the German engineer who invented the combustion engine which revolutionized both the automobile and railway transport. Some say he was pushed, as he had indicated he wanted the UK to develop his invention which ran on peanut oil. The French were also afraid that he would grant a patent right to Germany to use the engine in submarines. However, other evidence points to suicide as by that time he was almost bankrupt.
In an excellent collaboration, four students from The Regent’s School Pattaya were invited to Ford’s assembly plant in Rayong for a tour of the facility with New Model Programs Chief Engineer for Asia Pacific and Africa, Todd Barber. Todd then presented the students with a series of challenges to be completed between the centenary of Diesel’s death and 1st November. These team challenges include a timed rebuilding of a Ford engine, designing the next Ford vehicle using Google Sketch-Up, creating bio diesel fuel from waste, a creative writing exercise taking the perspective of a carbon atom as it passes through a diesel engine - and even making a model engine from paper clips.
Head of Science at The Regent’s, Paul Press commented, “Great science teaching isn’t just about what goes on in the laboratory or classroom. Done well, challenge-based learning takes students out of school and out of their comfort zone to look at the real-life applications of disciplines like engineering and design. The centenary of the death of engineering pioneer Rudolf Diesel was the perfect prompt for the Science and Design Technology Departments at The Regent’s to undertake collaborative challenge-based learning and we are so grateful to the team at Ford for their support.”


Thailand Super Series this weekend too

Super Series cars

If the ultimate in supercars is your idea of motorsport then Bira is the place for you this weekend. Expect to see Ferraris, Porsches, Lamborghinis, a V8 Holden Supercar, an Aston Martin Vantage, several Lotus and anything else expensive, in door to door paint swapping. I was in contact with Henk Kiks of B-Quik and asked about his preparation for the races. He replied, “What can I say? It’s a Porsche so it only needs to be started. ;-)” The Bira circuit is on Highway 36, around 3 km past the Regent’s School on the right, heading towards Sattahip. Racing from around noon.


What was your first car?

My first ‘real car’ which was mine and mine only, was a 1949 Austin A40 and was 10 years old when I took ownership. It was not a good buy, blowing up after two weeks. These days I would be more careful in pre-ownership checks; however, it was repaired and did serve me for the next 10,000 miles without too many hiccups. But it was painfully slow.
The A40 was actually considered a power machine in its day. A 1.2 liter straight-4 OHV engine produced 40 bhp (30 kW) at 4200 rpm. It also had front coil sprung independent suspension but retained a rigid axle and semi elliptic leaf springs at the rear. The Girling brakes with 9 in (229 mm) drums were operated hydraulically at the front and mechanically at the rear.
An A40 tested by The Motor magazine in 1948 had a top speed of 70 mph (110 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 37.2 seconds. Read that again - 37.2 seconds! To record those sorts of times, I think they probably had to use a calendar! Another for the ‘worst car’ category?
The next in my list of personal dreadful cars came from Italy, the home of GT motoring, Ferrari, Maserati and later Lamborghini. Mine was not a GT car, but a Fiat 1100 D I purchased for five British pounds and it was a well-worn example. So worn that it used more oil than gasoline. I used to collect oil from my local garage that had been drained from better cars coming in for a grease and oil change. Remember those days? In its heyday (the first week after coming out of the factory the Fiat 1100 D boasted performance figures of: top speed 120 km/h (75 mph) (factory); acceleration 0- 60 mph 27.2 seconds; 0- 100 km/h 30.2 seconds and 0- 1/4 mile 23.2 seconds. My rather more knackered version would go nowhere near those figures. Another very bad car. Incidentally, I never sold it. I parked it on Tilbury docks in London, threw the keys in the water and hopped on to the MV Adelaide Star where I was to be the ship’s surgeon for the voyage to Australia. It may even still be there? However, being left in light-fingered London, I doubt it.


How I ended up in a Mk 1 Escort (again)

Mk 1 Escort racer 1975.

In around 1975 I was approached by a young chap asking if I could help him build a racing lightweight Lotus T/C Ford Escort Mk 1. Having built Australia’s fastest MGB, I did have the experience, so I agreed.
In a few weeks we turned out a fairly tidy Mk 1. Bubble arches, wishbone lower front suspension, adjustable suspension, locked diff, alloy panels everywhere and a sturdy roll cage. To repay me, he offered to share the car with me for the season.
Track testing showed it was quick, and I was pleased to see I had not lost any of my speed either, being quicker than the young owner, so we alternated in the driving seat for the rest of the year.
You can predict the next step, without the help of a mor doo. Over the break I decided to build another Mk 1 Escort, a sister car, and we would run as a team. However, one of my sponsors was the Castrol oil company and they had another chap with a Mk 1 Escort as well, so they decided we should run as Team Castrol, using a similar livery to the Team Castrol in the UK. So now with three Escort Mk 1’s we really were firmly fixed in the Ford school!
However, I had more plans for the Mk 1 Escorts. This was to build space frame cars, with advanced suspensions, mid-engined and complete with wings. With this in mind I went to night school to learn how to do nickel-bronze welding.
I also had a friend with a Formula 2 car and I had a tape measure. After one week of measuring and drafting plans I had a space frame design with all the F2 suspension pick-up points in space and we began to build the ultimate Escort Mk 1.
It took six weeks and it certainly looked the part. A one-piece fiberglass lift-off front which included the bonnet, grille and guards. A space frame chassis, double wishbone front suspension and a five-link rear end. Mid-engined and a big wing across the rear. In fact we were the first winged, space frame sports sedan in Queensland. And it certainly worked, being something like five seconds a lap quicker than our previous Mk 1’s.
So we built yet another one and between us, set the Eastern Australian tracks alight, but we were being let down by the over-stressed Lotus Twin Cam engines. The answer was Mazda’s new rotary engines.
As our main sponsor was the largest Ford dealership in the southern hemisphere, we had to be a little coy about the manufacturer of the engines. But they were much superior to the Lotus - and more reliable and cheaper to run. I even made the pages of the authoritative publication “The Racing History of Ford in Australia.”
With that history, you can now see why seeing a Mk 1 Escort brought on nostalgia. With the help of long time sponsor Steve Graham (BBX/Acorn), we found the Mk 1 here in Thailand and in 2011 I returned to the tracks. Was this nostalgia or just sloppy sentimentality?
The answer can be seen at the Bira circuit. You may have seen a Mk 1 Escort entered this year once more with a geriatric driver. Sloppy sentimentality over-ruled sanity (again).


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Korean GP this weekend

Pattaya private school celebrates Diesel’s anniversary

Thailand Super Series this weekend too

What was your first car?

How I ended up in a Mk 1 Escort (again)