Bahrain GP cancelled
I began this item two weeks ago. The political situation then in
Bahrain was decidedly fluctuant. For the motor racing fraternity the
possible cancellation of the first GP of the year was not a question
of political importance, but it should have been.
With travel advisory warnings being given, this means that there is
no travel insurance to cover foreign nationals visiting the Middle
East. Would you jeopardize a complete race team in such dangerous
No, the political situation is none of ‘our’ business, and not one
that we can possibly understand totally. But ‘danger’ is one that
the motor racing world understands, and we strive to lessen the
dangers of our sport. There being nothing that ‘we’ can do to lessen
the dangers in going to a country in turmoil, the simple answer is
‘we’ should stay away.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber stated, quite correctly, that “… as always
you don’t really know the whole picture if you’re not there. So
let’s see what happens. I’m sure the right decision will be made in
terms of us. We know in terms of Formula 1 and priorities we’re not
high on the list, they’ve got other things that clearly should come
first.” Well said, Mark Webber.
So the opener for the 2011 season has been cancelled - or postponed
- that is the question. Since there is big money hanging on the
final decision, I predict that Bahrain will be sandwiched in between
two other GPs towards the end of the year. No matter how boring it
is as an event.
BMW going electric?
BMW have had hydrogen cars running for many years now, and fuel
cells and now electric vehicles, but it looks as if BMW have decided
that electric is the most practical.
They are so sure of the electric vehicle future that they have now
announced their own line of battery powered cars to be known as BMW
i, and made public a roll-out date of 2013 with two cars. The first
is the four seat urban battery powered car to be called the BMW i3
and the second a hybrid sports car to be called the BMW i8.
The design team has been working on the BMW i range since 2007 and
they will be plug-in electric vehicles. The cars will be lighter
than the current crop of internal combustion BMW’s with use of
carbon-fiber and aluminum and will be more aerodynamic making them
energy efficient. This even extends to running taller and narrower
wheels and tires with less rolling resistance.
Which car is the quickest around the Nordschleife?
Radical SR8 LM
Many manufacturers like to boast of the times recorded by their
models around the famous Nurburgring Nordschleife (Northern Loop).
Having driven round there myself I can tell you that it is the most
exciting, the most dangerous and the most difficult race circuit in
The following is the list of the top 10 cars around the
Nordschleife, and it will hold some surprises.
1. Radical SR8LM Time 6:48.00
2. Radical SR8
3. Gumpert Apollo Speed 7:11.57
4. Donkervoort D8 RS 7:14.89
5. Porsche 997 GT2 RS 7:18.00
6. Radical SR3 Turbo 7:19.00
7. Dodge Viper SRT-10 ACR 7:22.10
8. Gumpert Apollo Sport 7:24.00
9. Nissan GT-R
10. Maserati MC12
So, what’s a “Radical”? I have to admit it was a new name for me.
Those from the UK might know, the Radical SR8 LM, which in August
2009 became the king of street-legal sports cars, recorded the
quickest time of 6 minutes 48 seconds, smashing all other previous
Despite what it looks like, the Radical is apparently street legal
and to set the record, the driver drove the SR8 LM from the factory
in Peterborough in UK, all the way to the ‘Ring’ just to prove that
the car was in fact, road legal.
Even the Dunlop tires were road legal and only one set was used for
the entire journey.
Powering the SR8 LM is a Powertec prepared 2.8 liter version of
Suzuki’s Hayabusa motorcycle engine, which develops 460 bhp (340 kW)
of power through a six-speed transaxle. Shifts are also F1 style
fast, with a Powertec paddle shift system, which allows flat up
shifts, auto-blipper and clutchless downshifts. All-up weight is 575
And never mind Nurburgring, the Radical SR8 can lap the Silverstone
circuit in the same time as a Formula 3 single seater racecar, which
is quite incredible.
I think I want one. In fact, I think I need one!
Pizza Company continues sponsorship of Sandy and
The Pizza Company driver Sandy Nicholas Stuvik won the 2010 Asian
Formula Renault Championship, becoming the first Thai driver to ever
win that championship.
In 2011, Sandy is booked to compete in the European Formula Renault
series, as part of the process of climbing the ladder to F1. Paul
Kenny, CEO of Minor Food Group and himself an accomplished motor
racer, stated that the young promising Thai driver, who The Pizza
Company has been sponsoring since he was only six years old, will
continue to have his career fostered by the Pizza Company.
Paul Kenny and Sandy Stuvik
In 2010, Sandy won the Asian Formula Renault Championship at China’s
Zuhai International Circuit at the age of only 15 - being the
youngest racer to ever win the championship, and the first Thai
National to win the title. Sandy was last year coached by former F3
Champion Philippe Descombes, and this year Sandy is getting ready
and gearing up to compete in 2011 Formula Renault Eurocup, in which
he is also expected to have great results.
Another Thai sportsman to be assisted by the Pizza Company is
Ratthapark (Feem) Wilairot who is another talent who will be
supported in the World Motorcycle Grand Prix for the 600 cc Moto2
Apart from his managerial responsibility, Paul Kenny is also
competing as one of the drivers in the Race Team in the Honda Racing
Festival 2011, alongside three other experienced racers; Thomas
Raldorf, Tony Percy and new driver for the team, Akihiro Asai.
John Heinecke, Vice President Sizzler China and Thailand, and Burger
King Thailand, will collaborate with Paul in the RAAT Thailand
Endurance Championship 2011.
I was given Eddie Jordan’s autobiography by another Irish Eddie,
Eddie Irvine, the father of Eddie Irvine, the ex-Jordan and
ex-Ferrari driver. It is a hefty book and I am still plowing through
it, but it is really a hoot.
Eddie Jordan is the ultimate entrepreneur, a chancer, a con, an
opportunist and all with the Irish silver tongue. I think he even
puts Bernie Ecclestone in the shade.
Jordan did everything to keep racing himself, including buying and
selling cars and even flogging carpet off-cuts from the village
green at the weekends.
He paints wonderful pictures of all the famous motor racing names
including Colin Chapman, “..one of the cleverest men ever to sit at
a drawing board. Some said he was perhaps a bit too clever at times,
but I wouldn’t know about that.”
The ISBN number is 978-0-7528-8950-4, Orion Books, 2007, and it
should be available through Amazon dot com. Get hold of a copy. It
is a great book.
“Hear” comes the e-cars!
The H&S wallahs are clambering on to the e-bandwagon already,
claiming that the forthcoming electric vehicles will be dangerous,
because pedestrians will not hear them approaching.
Getting ready for the legislation is Delphi who announced that they
will start supplying low-cost “sound generators” to an unnamed
European car maker - probably GM off-shoot Opel, which will soon
start selling European market versions of the Chevrolet Volt
Delphi said the sound generators were “designed to comply with
legislation expected to mandate minimal sound for both hybrid and
electric vehicles. Industry analysts predict hybrid and electric
vehicle warning sounds, already covered by guidelines in Japan, will
be required in North America and Europe in the near future,” the
company said in a press release.
According to Delphi, the system has enough flexibility in its
frequency range to “reproduce melodies that represent the identity
of individual vehicle manufacturers.” So I presume that a top of the
line hybrid Mercedes will get a booming Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony -
“Dit, Dit, Dit, Dah” and an electric Camaro will get the sound track
from Bonnie and Clyde … the mind boggles.
Electric SLS Mercedes
Electric milk carts have been in use in the UK for decades. I wonder
how many unsuspecting morning joggers have been mown down by the
milk machines? I will take a guess at zero.
While automakers are trying to produce the quietest cars, here are
the H&S lot trying to make them noisy again. Any vehicle, even
rolling along with the engine turned off, makes an audible sound
from the loaded tyre tread on the bitumen. Do we need more noise
A bad attack of wind?
The Wind Explorer has just set some sort of a record by
crossing Australia in something akin to a kite-board on wheels.
A TV host and an engineer from Germany have completed an almost 5,000 km journey
in their Wind Explorer, which is a lightweight electric vehicle powered by the
wind - not only through electricity-generating wind turbines but also using
The 18 day trip by Dirk Gion and Stefan Simmerer set three world records - the
first time a continent has been crossed be a wind-powered vehicle, the longest
overall distance covered by an exclusively wind-powered land vehicle, and the
longest distance covered by such a vehicle in 36 hours.
Wind Explorer is a prototype electric vehicle, and the secret of its success is
in the light weight. The entire vehicle, including the battery pack weighs only
The construction is of an aluminium frame covered by a carbon-fiber sandwich
material and the vehicle runs on bicycle tyres.
The battery is an 8kWh lithium-ion pack that was recharged every night using a
portable wind turbine on the top of a six meter high telescopic bamboo mast -
but they did use the domestic electric grid on nights with no wind.
On January 26 of this year, Wind Explorer left Albany, on the southern coast of
Western Australia. For the first 800 km, the vehicle was powered entirely by
Once they got to the Nullarbor (“no trees”) Plain the intrepid pair were able to
take advantage of the strong winds to use kites to drag the vehicle along, as is
done with kite-boarding. The passenger held on to the large steerable kite
similar to a parasail. Apparently it was not easy, but they did manage to cover
several hundreds of kilometers crossing the desert.
The trip took the Wind Explorer through the states of Western Australia, South
Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, arriving in Sydney on February 14. On
the trip the vehicle reached speeds of 80 km/h. The best daily distance covered
was 493 km.
The journey was not without drama and punctures, including blowing two motors,
but I suppose, like climbing Mt. Everest, they can say they have done it. They
believe that they have proved that the technology is already available to
produce self-sufficient and environmentally sound transport; however, they did
not prove whether it was at all practical.
What makes for a car nut?
My wife asked me the other day, “How long have you been crazy about cars?” I
thought about it for a while and had to admit that I have been a car nut for my
entire life. Well, as soon as I got out of the pram, if nothing else.
My first memories of my father were of him driving a Singer 9 Le Mans he had
bought immediately after the war. Flat cap, pipe clenched between the teeth,
looking like a poor relation of the pre-war Bentley Boys. The Singer had huge
headlights with chrome wire stone guards. It was in British Racing Green,
complete with twin spare wheels mounted on the rear slab petrol tank. Dad
claimed it was one of the actual Le Mans team cars, but I doubt it. Dad was
known to exaggerate a tad.
Singer 9 Le Mans
I loved that car, even though I was only five years old. It
smelled like a racing car and made noises like a racing car and I was devastated
when Dad sold it. However, looking back, it would be hard to imagine a car less
practical for a family. It was also very difficult to get petrol of a reasonable
octane in the north of Scotland at that time and keeping the twin carburetors in
synch was beyond the Corness Senior’s back yard expertise. Looking back again, I
am sure that all that was really wrong was worn butterfly spindles, but my
father was not able to rise to the technical engineering level needed. And at
five years of age, all I did was get in the way, but I did polish those
monstrous headlights to perfection!
The next family car was a Morris Minor. No, not one of the Issigonis 1950’s
Minors (Sir Alec Issigonis did design other cars before the Mini’s) but a 1933
Morris Minor, complete with one spare wheel on the tail and a central
accelerator pedal. Yes, a trifle un-nerving for those used to having the brake
pedal in the middle, but that was the car I started to learn to drive in at age
10. Surreptitiously, I might add. It was also the car I had my first accident in
when my father lost it on the icy roads one night and we went through a hedge
and I banged my head on the windscreen.
Seat belts? They had not been invented in 1933 and still were unthought-of of in
1951. Morris Minor used to suffer with clutch slip after oil would come through
the leather rear oil seal on the crankshaft and contaminate the clutch lining.
There was an inspection hole on the top of the bell housing and we used to pour
petrol through it all over the clutch. It worked for a while, but eventually it
needed a new clutch and my father sold it to a wreckers yard in Edinburgh. I
wanted to keep the external radiator cap, but Dad would not allow me to do that,
saying we had sold the entire car to the wrecking yard. I cried all the way
home. Some parts of me never forgave him. Dad has been dead for over 30 years,
but it still hurts.
Since then, I have personally owned over 100 cars. Many
turned out to be collectors items - but never while I owned them. There’s no
justice in this world, but I have to admit, I love my cars.
Thailand Auto Industry on a surge
The vehicle production figures for Thailand in 2010 showed a very strong growth
of just under 40 percent, year on year, with total numbers of domestic sales
over 750,000 units.
The export production figures were also very buoyant with the various Free Trade
Agreements helping boost the export production close to 900,000 units for the
With Ford and GM both expanding their presence in Thailand, and new cars such as
the Fords Focus and Fiesta and GM’s Cruze coming on stream, the local auto
industry looks very strong. It seems that the domestic political upheaval had no
apparent effects on the auto industry, and neither did some niggling union
This all augurs well for the Bangkok International Motor Show, which will be
held at the Impact Muang Thong Thani for the first time, having outgrown the
available space at the BITEC venue.
The 32nd Bangkok International Motor Show will be held for 14 days from March 23
(Wednesday) to April 6 (Wednesday). Public days will be from Saturday, March 26
until April 6, and this year the Motor Show will be held at Challenger Hall
(Impact Muang Thong Thani), Bangkok.
The show is more than just new cars, but is a comprehensive one that includes
passenger cars, commercial vehicles, motorcycles, vehicle bodies, parts,
machinery and tools.