The monthly car enthusiasts meeting will be at Jameson’s
Irish Pub on Soi AR next to the Nova Park development. The car (and bike)
enthusiasts meet on the second Monday of the month, so this time it is Monday
(December 11) at Jameson’s at 7 p.m. This is a totally informal meeting of like
minded souls to discuss their pet motoring (and motorcycling) loves and hates.
Bring along any magazines, photos of old vehicles, old girlfriends or the latest
Spyker for us all to drive.
Last week was an easy one. I asked what movie car was called
Eleanor? And what was the movie? The first correct answer was from Ray Speed who
correctly identified it as a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT 500 and the film was “Gone
in sixty seconds”. Well done, Ray.
So to this week. The Swedish Volvo P1800 is one of those iconic cars, but it was
not made in Sweden. Where was it made?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
F1 gets its first black driver – so who cares?
According to the McLaren PR handout, young UK driver Lewis
Hamilton is set to become the first black driver in Formula One after McLaren
announced that he would be partnering double World Champion Fernando Alonso
during the 2007 F1 season.
For my money, I really don’t give a tinker’s cuss about the ethnic background of
any driver in F1. All I want to know, is can he drive? The simple answer is a
most definite yes.
The young chap is 21 years old, so he’s not the youngest to ever get an F1
contract, but here are his racing credentials:
1995: British cadet class and STP karting champion.
1996: Wins the Champions of the Future, Sky TV KartMasters and Five Nations
1997: Moves up to junior Yamaha and wins Champions of the Future series and
Super One series.
1998: Competing in Junior Intercontinental A is second in McLaren Mercedes
Champions of the Future and fourth at the Italian Open. Confirmed he will be
supported by McLaren and Mercedes-Benz.
1999: Italian ‘Industrials’ champion at Intercontinental A level, Vice European
champion, Trophy de Pomposa winner and fourth at Italian Open Championship at
2000: In Formula A, wins all four rounds to become European champion, also wins
World Cup and the Masters at Bercy. Named as British Racing Drivers’ Club
‘Rising Star’ member.
2001: Finishes fifth in the British Formula Renault winter series.
2002: Finishes third, with three race wins, in British Formula Renault
2003: Wins British Formula Renault championship.
2005: Formula 3 Euroseries champion.
2006: Wins the GP2 Series. September 13 is given first test in a McLaren Formula
One car, and on November 24 is confirmed as race driver for 2007 season for
That is the pedigree of a winner at all levels, and as I predicted some months
ago, would be picked to partner Alonso at McLaren Mercedes. In private testing
he is already setting competitive times and will be a driver of the future.
However, can McLaren deliver a decent car to their drivers in 2007? They
certainly did not in 2006.
For the lovers of trivia, Lewis Hamilton is not the first man of color driver by
any stretch of imagination. In 1963, Wendell Scott, who was involved since the
early days of NASCAR, became the first and so far only man of color driver to
win a major league race.
And yet another German up and coming
Our roving correspondent at large, John Weinthal, attended the A1GP
meeting in Malaysia, and came away very impressed with another young German,
John Weinthal writes, “Nico Hulkenberg - remember this name. You are going to
hear much more of its 19 year old.
“A1GP, the so-called World Cup of Motorsport, has by my reckoning at least five
drivers who could right now work themselves at worst into the middle third of
any F1 field. But the young German Hulkenberg is set to be among the top five
within two years, at worst.
“He won the series’ first feature race of the current season at Holland’s
Zandvoort circuit. It was his first weekend in a 500bhp A1GP car. But in
Malaysia last weekend he stamped his mark on motor racing’s future beyond any
doubt. On his first ever timed lap of the Sepang F1 circuit in the Friday’s
first practice he broke the previous A1 lap record, by three seconds!
“Third after Saturday’s qualifying in the dank heat which is Sepang’s specialty
when it is not actually raining, he moved to second on Lap 4 of Sunday morning’s
10 lap sprint race. And he had the brains to hold back in second. This ensured
he would have the better side of the track for the start of the later 35 lap (or
one hour) feature race. First would have disadvantaged the multilingual,
smiling, mild-mannered yet confident young man who is tall for a top racing
“With 30 minutes to the scheduled start a monsoon struck. The race start was
delayed. Then it began with three laps of single-file ‘racing’ behind the Audi
Safety Car. The rain was torrential. Water cascaded across sections of the
“End of second place grid advantage? Don’t believe it.
“Swiss 23 year old Neel Jani, the talented pole-sitter - as at Sepang last
season - was driving into Hulkenberg’s blinding spray from the fourth corner of
the first flying lap.
“The German consistently extended his lead before stalling and requiring a push
start after his compulsory tyre-change pit stop.
“At the end of a miraculously incident free race, Hulkenberg was ONLY 42.8
seconds in front of Great Britain’s Robbie Kerr with defending champions France
third. (Lapierre shared the driving for France in the first season but points go
to the team in A1GP, not the driver). Pole man Neel Jani was fourth.
“Hulkenberg’s manager is (wily) Willi Weber who happens to have also managed the
career of a recently retired F1 master, and is the ‘owner’ of the German A1GP
team. This lad has both talent and contacts!”
Another German at the top
The Formula BMW world final was held in Valencia (Spain), and
Christian Vietoris of Josef Kaufmann Racing was the winner. The 17 year old beat
35 competitors chosen from all the winners of the regional F BMW divisions,
including FBMW Asia. Vietoris, who was also the winner of the FBMW Germany, had
a pole to flag win in the final. As part of the spoils of victory, he will also
get a Formula One test drive with the BMW Sauber F1 Team in 2007.
Zanardi back in F1?
Prior to the final race for the world series of Formula BMW,
Alessandro Zanardi made motor racing history once again in the support program
of the DELL Formula BMW World Final. He became the first double-leg amputee
driver to take to the track at the wheel of a BMW Sauber F1 Team Formula One
car. Zanardi thrilled the fans with several spectacular show drives - and set
some impressively quick lap times. Zanardi has been competing for the past
couple of years in the World Touring Car Championship and is a front runner in
that category. He was at Macau this year (last month) but joined the list of
those who won a wall, rather than a trophy.
The lions that ate cars
For those who have never seen a Mini Californian, it began as your
everyday Mini Moke, the flat Mini platform with a faintly raffish ‘jeep’ look to
it. It had canvas seats across metal frames to add to the military look. A flat
windscreen up front and a fairly useless vinyl top that could be erected. It was
ineffective as a roof, and when it rained, it was even worse.
However, the Californian variant had little Perspex wind ‘wings’ either side of
the windscreen, designed to stop buffeting of driver and passenger (which they
didn’t), some stuffing in the seats, some new choices of bright colours for the
platform and a bright floral patterned vinyl roof, which was still ineffective
when it rained, and if you drove at any speeds over 80 kph, the side flaps went
up and down like a spaniel dog’s ears at full canter. Yes, this was British
Leyland’s concept of the Californian psychedelic era.
BL’s publicity man was called Ian Millbank and his concept to promote this
variant was more towards the ‘great white hunter’ idea. He envisaged hunters and
models, trees and the veldt and the piece de resistance was to be lions! In
Sydney, Australia, in those days there was just the location – the Warragamba
Lion Park! The release was already in Millbank’s mind. The lion park was
contacted, and two new Moke Californians were taken in secret one night to
Warragamba. Remember that all ‘new’ models are driven round incognito before the
release date, and in fact there is an army of press photographers on the lookout
for pre-release vehicles.
But back to the lion park. The photographer and models had been contacted and
the shoot scheduled for the following day. The sight that confronted them the
next morning was certainly theatrical. There were two half-eaten Moke
Californians, being devoured by all these lion cubs. They had systematically
eaten the seats, the floral roof, the wind wings and anything else that a pride
of hungry lion cubs felt was suitable for breakfast, including the spare tyres!
Even for Ian Millbank, this was a situation that could not be recovered from.
The models were discharged, as well as the photographer, the Mokes brought back
to the factory on a truck under tarpaulins in disgrace!
Yes, that was the psychedelic seventies! I am lucky that I not only experienced
them with BL - I survived them!