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Vol. XIII No.21 - Sunday October 19, 2014 - Saturday November 1, 2014

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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Rolls-Royce unveils its “city slicker”

A different Metropolitan.

Rolls-Royce must be getting desperate for the Names Department to come up with “Phantom Metropolitan” as the name for the 2015 models. The last time “Metropolitan” was used was on a Nash, and that was eminently forgettable too.
RR came out with the usual PR Speak at the release at the Paris motor show saying that the styling and car were inspired by the modern cityscapes all over the world. However, as well as a silly name, you get - wait for it - hand-crafted wood-inlay marquetry decorating items such as a fold-out table. I’m sure that will have all the people with more money than sense queuing outside the RR dealerships.
But I shouldn’t knock RR just because I can’t afford one. Perhaps possible owners will go for the Bespoke Personalization that is being offered. Just relax in the knowledge that bespoke craftsmen took several days to hand-cut 500 wood veneer pieces for the table. A similar scene is etched into the wood panel dash.
Externally, the Paris show car was painted in Darkest Tungsten which Rolls-Royce said is inspired by city skylines. A hand-applied coachline traced the silhouettes of skyscrapers.
More PR Speak, Rolls-Royce developed a new hue for the seat leather - Aetherius Grey - to “echo the color palette of the modern city”, while 6,800 two-tone stitches to the central rear seat flutes depict a towering building.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars chief executive officer Torsten Müller-Ötvös said Paris was a fitting location to debut the Phantom Metropolitan Collection.
“This is a city that echoes Rolls-Royce’s very special brand promise in perfectly combining the timeless and modern in a manner that celebrates the art of the master craftsperson,” he said.
“Our customers across the globe delight in challenging our designers and craftspeople to create true, one-of-a-kind pieces of automotive art. This latest collection serves to showcase the extraordinary scope for Bespoke personalization afforded to every patron of the marque.”
The debut follows this year’s release of the Phantom Drophead Coupe Waterspeed collection and Pinnacle Travel Phantom.
The special collections serve to promote the company’s in-house Bespoke personalization team that not only creates paint colors to match personal possessions, but also offers extensive customizations from headlining glowing with ‘stars’ to teak decking.
According to RR, nearly every Phantom sold word-wide is personalized by Bespoke.
Two months ago, Rolls-Royce recorded its largest sale of Phantoms with 30 extended wheelbase cars sold to a Macau hotel-casino boss.
That required a little more than would be left in the croupier’s purse with the Phantom being priced at $855,000 plus on-road costs, while $990,000 buys the extended wheelbase as required by the Macau Casino. There must be money to be made in such establishments. ;-))

Two wheels, 500 cc and no brakes!

John Titman speedway

We have all had many ambitions in our lives. How many of us wanted to be firemen and ride in a big red fire truck, when we were small children? Me? I didn’t want to be a fireman, I wanted to be a speedway rider!
I can blame my father for this (which is why we have fathers - to be the recipients of ‘blame’) as it was he who took his young son to Meadowbank Speedway in Edinburgh to watch the Saturday night competition under floodlights. The sound of the straight through single cylinder speedway bikes, the smell of Castrol R and the shoulder to shoulder racing enthralled me.
The captain of the local team, Edinburgh Monarchs, was an Australian called Jack Young, who was the world champion at that time. Jack Young was so good, he was made to give all other riders a 50 meter start, to give them even a fighting chance. Jack Young was my boyhood hero and I would queue up at the back of the pits to get his autograph on a photo of him. I even became a lifetime member of the Meadowbank Speedway Supporters Club. Not that my life membership has done me much good, since they tore down the speedway to build the arena for the Commonwealth Games of 1970. Ah well, I think it’s called ‘progress’ or something. But even tearing down the track did nothing about stopping my ambition to be a speedway rider like Jack Young.
Perhaps a few words here on what comprises a speedway bike won’t go astray. These racing machines are motorcycling minimalism taken to the extreme. A very light tubular frame with a small fuel tank and even smaller seat, to keep the weight down, is fitted with a 500 cc engine, which drives the rear wheel through a chain. No brakes, no gears. You change the gearing by changing the sizes of the sprockets. The lubrication is a ‘total loss’ system, where the oil just ends up dribbling out on the ground. Fuel - only pure methanol may be used. The minimum weight is 80 kg and the single cylinder engines have generally four valve heads, fitted with one carburetor and one spark plug. An ignition cut out is fitted on each bike tied around the rider’s wrist to operate when the rider leaves the machine, which they do frequently.
And back to the story - I was rung one Saturday morning by the race engineer for one of Australia’s top professional riders, John Titman. John had cut the tendons in his left hand in an industrial accident on the Friday and he had been operated on and was in hospital, where he was to stay till the middle of the next week. There was only one problem, John had to ride at the speedway that night, or he had to drop out of any chance of the world final. Could I get him out of hospital, and get him OK to race?
We managed it, manufacturing an alloy “glove” to restrict the movements of his fingers. The index finger was left out, but covered with a rubber glove so he could operate the clutch lever at the start of each race.
That got him through the Australian round and off to Europe where he placed sixth in the world championship final.
When John Titman returned to Australia after the world final he came to see me to thank me for my part in getting him to the final. “What do I owe you, Doc?” My reply took him aback somewhat. “A ride on your speedway bike!”
And so it happened. A (then) 42 year old novice swung his leg over a world championship speedway bike at the Ipswich speedway. 500 cc methanol burning bike with no brakes. My boyhood ambition was finally realized. I was never going to set the dirt tracks alight, but I had done it.

What did we learn from the Russian GP?

Well we learned that the new track at Sochi is very smooth, is kind on tyres, and is a typical Tilke track which does not encourage passing. It was compared to Valencia by commentators, and we all know what a bore-fest Valencia is. We also found out that Vladimir Putin considers F1 a great place for photo opportunities. And did you spot the video grab of our Bernie (AKA King Midas) sitting beside President P and opening his wallet. A picture is worth a thousand words!
Even though there are 100 points up for grabs in the last three races (25 points each for the US GP and the Brazil GP and double points for the final in Abu Dhabi), Hamilton (Mercedes) does not have a winning margin yet as he is only 17 points in front of his team mate Nico Rosberg. However, the smart money is on Hamilton to win the championship. Hamilton has the ‘win’ mindset, whilst Rosberg is showing desperation.
Bottas (Williams) is a future champion. Has great speed and the right character to succeed. Provided Williams can give him a top car next year, he could easily be the top contender. His Williams team mate Felipe Massa is coming to the end of his life as a F1 driver. Still shows speed, but not consistency and with so many new and hungry drivers ready to step up, it is time Felipe bows out.
Fourth and fifth went to McLaren with Button in front of Magnussen but whilst Button has had a good second half of the Grands Prix, he is another who should go to pasture to open up a spot in the driver line-up.
Sixth was Alonso (Ferrari). How much longer will the Spaniard be with Maranello? He is free to move and the money is currently on a shift to McLaren - but there is still bad blood between Alonso and Ron Dennis (about $100 million of bad blood), so I do not think he will go there. Consider this - Massa out and Alonso in, at Williams for 2015. Williams have definitely a better car this year, and I predict it will still be better than Ferrari next year.
Red Bull did not star at Sochi. The only item of note was that once again Ricciardo finished in front of the German once known as “The Finger”. After four world championships in a row, Vettel has really gone from hero to zero.
Ninth was Raikkonen after another lack-luster drive. Ferrari bought him out of his contract once, but didn’t learn from the experience. There has been no comparison between Alonso and Raikkonen. If Ferrari want a better year in 2015 they will have to bite the bullet again and pay him out a second time. Massa would very happily go back to his old dressing room and could partner Jean-Eric Vergne who has lost his seat at Torro Rosso.
Maldonado (“Lotus”) showed once again that not only is he a liability on track but he is also the multiple Penalty King! But I am sure Bernie will let him buy his way out!
Also way down in the boonies was Kobayashi who was retired from the race, after management called him in, leaving Kobayashi in the dark as far as the reason was concerned. With all the financial woes at Caterham, perhaps a cheque bounced?
The next race is in the US which is screened at the most unglodly hour of 3 a.m. in Thailand. Sorry, but I will miss it!

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Rolls-Royce unveils its “city slicker”

Two wheels, 500 cc and no brakes!

What did we learn from the Russian GP?



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