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
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
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
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
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
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).