Automania

Fancy a trip to Laos and Vietnam?

My old friend Captain Sitthichoke has passed on the details of the latest 4WD caravan tour from Thailand to Laos and Vietnam (and return) during the period December 20-26.

This is one of those all-inclusive tours and the fees cover the permission document for caravan tour, procedure at the border, accommodation in twin sharing room for six nights, English or Thai speaking guide, admission fee and boat fee, meals, bus transfer where required, organization fee, parking fees, insurance fee for car and driver/passengers in Lao Sector only, company car plus police escort.
What is not included are the beverages at meals, personal expenses, visa entry (if participants are non-Asian), gasoline for car, insurance fees for car and driver/passengers in Vietnam, and repairs.
A quick resume of the trip includes Mukdahan, then on to Savannakhet with a welcome briefing at the international border gate (Second Friendship Bridge), visit dinosaur museum, Inhang Stupa, local market and gala dinner in Savannakhet.
After Laos, the caravan goes through the border into Vietnam, lunch at Dong Ha then visit Vinh Moc Revolution museum and local market.
The next day it is Dong Ha - Hue - Danang on the Ho Chi Minh Highway.
On 24 Dec, the caravan runs from Danang - Hoi An - Kontum - Attapeu (in Laos) with accommodation at the Attapeu palace with Lao local traditional music show.
Xmas day after breakfast it is on to Phapheng Waterfall via Pakse, lunch at waterfall area late afternoon return to hotel in Pakse City.
The final day is 26 December going from Pakse - Wat Phu Temple - Chong Mek (Thailand) and that is the official end of the six day escorted caravan. On a share basis, the cost is B. 13,000, with an additional charge for single (not share) of B. 2,000 and vehicle charge of B. 2,600.
For more information contact Tel: (856-41) 251972, fax: (856-41) 253376, 212755, Mobile: (856-20) 5516890, 5864146, 5865466, 9841802, 2312637, email: sktravel @laotel.com, t[email protected] hotmail.com, and website http://www.offroad.laopdr.com
As a further contact point, Captain Sitthichoke who is based in Thailand, speaks excellent English and his mobile is 081 902 4490. He also informed me that he has some 4x4 Offroad Hilux Vigo trucks for rent if you want to join the above trip.


Renault takes an Indian bride (on the rebound?)

Renault’s Carlos Ghosn has reportedly taken another bride, polygamy apparently being considered OK for meandering motor moguls.

After the much touted arranged marriage with GM, managed by Kirk Kerkorian, ended up in tears at the altar, Carlos took the bag with the bride price to Asia and courted India’s Mahindra and Mahindra.
India has a long history of arranged marriages, and the European fair skin is much sought after, so it did not take long for the Mahindra match-makers to bring on the flowers, exchange the rings, and fire up the Tandoori ovens.
But there are those that would say that Carlos is not in it just for the curries. Not only has there been a PreNup agreement over Carlos’ adopted son to be called Logan Mahindra, but Carlos wants room to play around as well. In a recent interview on Indian TV, where he was asked directly whether he was going to be faithful, Carlos uttered, “You are tempted to go out of a partnership if this partnership gives you a so and so kind of reward. In this case that is not the case, we have a very open relationship with Anand (Mahindra) and his team and they understand us and we understand them very well. There is no reason to break this relationship, on the contrary we are eager to develop it and let him benefit from it and Renault and Nissan benefit from it.”
So not only does our Carlos want an open marriage, he is already suggesting a ménage a trios. Trust a Frenchman! Or should that be never trust a Frenchman?
Of course, I am sure that Carlos knows that his main bed partner Nissan, whom he is suggesting might like to join in the fun, has been “having it off” with Suzuki who has had a well publicized affair with Maruti, resulting in an offspring known as a Maruti 800 by Maruti Udyog. This somewhat mixed parent vehicle sells for a little over US$ 4,000 and is a major player in the annual 1 million vehicle Indian car market.
However, being the astute man that he is, Ghosn knows that it’s first in-best dressed as far as available brides in India is concerned, and Renault and Rogan Josh has a nice ring to it. Just like Carlos and Curry.


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week’s quiz car

Quiz cars

Last week I asked you to have a look at the quiz car. It was found in Thailand. I asked what is it, and what was wrong with it? The answer was a Datsun Fairlady, but they never came out with louvers on the front guards. Those have been done later.
So to this week. Another set of very old photographs which were sent in by Nick Fennessy. Now these had me scratching my head, apart from the Morgan three wheeler. What is the consensus on these?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


A1GP replays Indy 2005

A1GP racer

A1GP - the so-called World Cup of Motor Racing - hit a low in Beijing this weekend worthy of comparison with the F1 fiasco of Indianapolis 2005, the infamous six car ‘race’ writes our correspondent John Weinthal.
A1’s first Beijing problem was that there was no real circuit. A street course had been hastily constructed on an extraordinarily ugly industrial park. There was no prior testing or racing on it.
Friday practice was curtailed when, incredibly, it was decided to alter the layout of the narrow, bumpy course.
A 90 minute Saturday practice was stopped after just 25 when a manhole cover came loose on the racing line. Qualifying was cancelled altogether. Times set in brief practice sessions became the basis for the starting grid of the Sunday sprint race.
There’s little point saying much more. The 20 lap sprint started behind the safety car in single file. Likewise the later 60 lap feature event which should have seen a conventional paired standing start.
On a circuit which looked barely two cars wide in parts there were inevitable ‘offs’ resulting in long periods under the Audi S8 safety car. Clearly nobody was trained to remove even stalled cars, let alone the mildly damaged.
The books will show Italy in first place from Great Britain and Australia. They were the first of 13 survivors from 22 starters.
To add to the fans’ misery the TV filming was appalling. In the face of this farce the results should be scrapped - they are meaningless.
Until Beijing, A1GP had proved to be a fabulous concept with intensely close racing and much overtaking by the identical 520 bhp cars. Beijing’s many blunders could never be repeated, even if one tried. Pray that Beijing can do better with the Olympics in 2008.
A1GP will come alive again at Malaysia’s Sepang circuit this weekend - November 24-26. Our roving correspondent John Weinthal will be there.


Natavud takes the titles (again)
The most polished driver in Thailand is Natavud Charoensukhawatana, in my opinion, and he has just taken the Thailand Touring Car championship again in the factory Toyota.
In fact, I consider Nat to be one of the best in Asia. And what is more, he has been the best on two wheels as well as four.
The list of racers who have tried two and four is actually quite impressive. The most famous pair would have to be John Surtees (F1 champion 1964) and Mike Hailwood. Then there is another F1 world champion who started on two wheels (but without international success), and that was Damon Hill. Others include Johnny Cecotto and Eddie Lawson and Wayne Gardner, all of whom excelled on two wheels and did quite well on four wheels, but were never champions in the field. Even the greatest two wheel rider of all time, Giacomo Agostini with his 15 world titles, tried his hand at four wheels, and although scoring a few podiums in his Williams FW06 in 1980, never made it to the top of the lesser championship classes he contested. No, it takes a rare talent to be a champion in both disciplines.
And it is that which brings me back to Nat. Were you aware that this very mild mannered man was a two wheeled champion? And not tiddlers either. He was a multiple champion around the highly dangerous Macau circuit on SuperBikes. He was the champion in 1989, 1991 and 1993, riding the ferocious Kawasaki ZXR 750-750R in those years. For those who have never seen the Bike GP at Macau, there are stone and concrete walls all the way round the public road circuit. It is like the Isle of Man races in the UK, but without the hedges! And like Valentino Rossi, there’s nothing of him. How he wrestled large superbikes, I do not know. Having tried two wheels (and failed miserably) I stand in awe of these racers.
What must be remembered that Nat really is a veteran, in motor sport terms. He is also not a one-class wonder, as so many drivers are. Brilliant in one category and nowhere in the next. Try these results over the past 12 years:
Thailand Grand Touring Car (TGTC) Champion
Year 1993, 1994, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003
2nd runner up year 2002
S.E.A South East Asia Touring Car (Super touring car)
1st runner up year 1995
2nd runner up year 1998
3rd runner up year 1996, 1997
Asian Touring Car Champion
Year 2001
Porsche Carrera Cup Asia
2nd runner up year 2003
1st runner up 2004.
These wins have been in many types of cars, from Peugeots, Porsches and Toyotas of various types. He has been the Thailand Touring Car Champion for so many years he has run out of places to put the cups! He has driven for international teams such as Longman Racing and FuSpeed, as well as the Toyota works team.
So here we have the most unassuming Asian driver who has been and still is a champion on two wheels and on four. He has been consistently at the sharp end of the grid for more than a decade, and is still there. He is not slipping backwards at all. In fact, for my money, the skill of a driver is shown by his ability to master wet conditions. Nat is a ‘rain-meister’.


What pilots can do with your tax dollars!
Nothing to do with motor cars, but I have always had an admiration for people who can do things fast and well. Go to http://www.glumbert.com/media/flylow and watch the most amazing footage of jet pilots training (playing?) over a desert somewhere. Truly, I have never seen anything like this! It makes Top Gun look like kindergarten stuff.