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by Dr. Iain Corness

Where’s everyone in 2001?

Automania Quiz

Last week I asked which car could be purchased ex works with a wicker or woven cane body. The one I was looking for was the optional bodywork that could be had on the Hanomag Kommissbrot. A rear engine 500 cc screamer with one central headlight, they sold 16,000 of them with the tin body but also quite a few woven ones. One still survives today in the UK. If you had an accident I suppose you took it to the closest cane chair place for a re-weave!

I like finding all these weird sort of machines, and this week’s quiz is based on another of them. This machine was built on a Mini front sub frame, complete with East-West engine (which reminds me that British Leyland in Australia were forced to withdraw an advertisement they had done for the Mini with a group of Japanese girls looking under the bonnet, with the caption “Oh, it does go sideways too”). It seated three people in a row behind the engine, with the front two who had to wear crash helmets while the last one did not. So here’s the question and it’s in two parts - why did the third person not have to wear a helmet and secondly, what was the name of the vehicle?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to fax 427 596 or email [email protected]

A length of broom handle

Did you know that one of the most widely used items in motor racing is a lump of broom handle? All race sedans and sporty cars have a bonnet and boot and to save weight, they do not carry on board the metal stick to hold them open. Hence the universal use of the piece of broom handle of appropriate length, used when work is done in the pits.

This use of wooden poles is not restricted to just race cars either. All older 911 Porsches, especially those later fitted with Whale Tails, will carry this essential item. You only have to be clocked on the head once, while staring at the business end of your Porsche, when the pneumatic struts decide to give up the ghost and you too will have the length of broom handle sitting beside the engine!

Isn’t it amazing, we can put men on the moon, but we can’t get bonnets and boots to stay open? Well, not without a wooden pole.

Where’s everyone in 2001?

The annual musical chairs is still on, and indications are that the second half of the grids will be quite different for the new season. The list is as follows: Ferrari - M. Schumacher and Barichello as before; McLaren Mercedes - Hakkinen and Coulthard as before, BMW Williams - R. Schumacher and Montoya (over from the US CART series); Benetton - Fisichella and Button (on “loan” from BMW Williams for two years); BAR Honda - Villeneuve and Panis (test driver for McLaren this year); Jordan Honda - Frentzen and Trulli again; Arrows - most likely de la Rosa and Verstappen as per 2000; Sauber Petronas - Heidfeld (over from Prost) and Raikkonen (new to F1 following being given a “Super” Licence by the FIA - as was Button this year); Jaguar Cosworth - Irvine and Burti (previously the 2000 test driver for Jaguar); Prost Ferrari - Alesi and perhaps Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer; Minardi - both unknown.

The test drivers are interesting for 2001, McLaren Mercedes - Wurz (ex Benetton 2000); BMW Williams - Gene (ex Minardi); Benetton - Mark Webber (Australian ex F3000 and a great talent looking for the elusive break); BAR Honda - Anthony Davidson (ex Formula Ford, and winner of the UK Young Driver of the Year 2000, who raced with Button in GoKarts); Jordan Honda - Zonta (ex BAR in 2000); Arrows - most likely Mazzacane (ex Minardi and toting heaps of cash) and Jaguar - Tomas Scheckter (son of ex Ferrari World F1 Champion Jody Scheckter).

Mrs Schumacher’s younger boy, Ralfie baby, has come out in print to say that the young drivers should not be able to move straight into F1 from a lower formula (Raikkonen for example has only done one season of seven races in Formula Renault) as there is a “learning” process to be done, and F1 aspirants should do at least one season in F3 or F3000. Actually, I do agree with him. Like anything, F1 drivers have a learning curve, and the lower bit of it should be in the lower formulae. That’s where you learn race craft, slipstreaming and generally how to conduct yourself. I fully realise young Jenson Button did a fine job this year after one season in F3, but even he made unforced errors, caused by lack of experience. Not lack of F1 experience, but lack of experience - period.

This Raikkonen lad is apparently blisteringly fast - but does he know what to do when something goes wrong, when a car spins in front of him, when someone changes lane mid corner or the countless thousands of incidents that can occur when two men in two cars race each other? I dunno, but I doubt it. That’s what Ralf means by the “learning process” in the lower classes. Whatever, I wish him luck. My own prot้g้, Julian Harburg is in the UK building an F3 car and trying and hoping someone sees him. To get to the top in motor sport unfortunately takes 80% luck and 20% talent. So far he’s showing 20% luck and 80% talent. It’s a hard road.

Arcade Game Racers

I must admit I’ve never been one for the Sony, Sega and Nintendo sort of games. Endless hours twiddling your thumbs while negotiating a pseudo race circuit has never grabbed me. Probably it’s because I’ve done the real thing, or maybe because I’m too old and don’t understand Super Mario, or maybe just that my thumbs are too slow. Whatever, I also admit that I have trouble with the remote control of my TV set, so all this technology is wasted on blokes like me.

However, I did read an interesting article about a bunch of computer nerds who have just produced a Le Mans game. This took 12 months, and apparently in the industry this is considered super fast. When you find out that this meant walking round the Le Mans circuit for three days and photographing every building, pits, outhouses and trees, then converting them all to computer drawn images, then you begin to understand why 12 months is a breakneck speed. Trees? They drew more than 100,000 of them. Then there’s all the inter-active stuff, where you go up and down hills or move into the dirt. It even works out the adhesion limits at the speed you are doing to see if your electronic “car” stays on the blacktop or spears off into the scenery. (Wonder if they have an aerial sequence as well, where you can do loops in a CLK Benz and land back on your wheels, like Mark Webber did a couple of years ago?)

No, for those what can twiddle their thumbs with dexterity, there’s an enormous amount of work behind these games, so they’re probably worth the money. For me, I’ll just go back to the telly’s remote and see if I can make it tell the time as well as change the station.

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