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by Dr. Iain Corness

European GP this weekend

The Euro GP is being held at the Nurburgring circuit in Germany this weekend. With the German brothers Ralf and Michael Schumacher running head to head at the last GP in Canada two weeks ago, both of them will be wanting to do well in front of their “home” crowd.

It seems as if the Williams Team has really spent some time getting their act together and have not just taken the race up to McLaren, they are now in front of them on the track. Whilst everyone thought it was Jordan who was going to be challenging, it has instead come from the renewed and revitalized Williams. The BMW engine being used appears to be not only very fast, but very economical as well. Remember Canada where Ralf stayed out for four laps further than his brother’s Ferrari? That was the sign of a very fuel efficient engine.

There is much talk that Honda will only support one team next year, and with both Jordan and BAR running the Honda engines, each of these teams will be desperate to do well. Neither of them covered themselves with glory in Canada. It will also be interesting to see if Heinz-Harald Frentzen races in front of his home crowd. He missed Canada, suffering from a concussion following a heavy shunt in Monaco and another two weeks later on the Friday before Qualifying in Canada.

The star of the future has to be the youngster Kimi Raikkonen in the Sauber. Regularly out-qualifying his more experienced team mate Heidfeld, he finished 4th in Canada. It will not be long before he gets that Sauber onto the podium. Even Hakkinen praised the youngster’s driving in Canada.

On the other side of the coin, Jenson Button is not doing his career much good this year. From being the shining hope of 2000, he has trailed behind Fisichella every race, both in Qualifying and during the race proper. Undoubtedly the Benetton is a veritable dog of a motor car, but you are measured against how well you do compared to your team mate. Like the Barichello and Schumacher equation, Button is lagging behind Fisi.

Join me at Shenanigans in front of the big screen at 7 p.m. (I think) - but check with the UBC catalogue or with Landlord Kim Fletcher.

TGTC Round 2 this weekend

It’s been a busy month at the Bira Circuit, with the Hong Kongers two weeks ago and now Round 2 of the local series for the Thailand Grand Touring Cars as well as the Sport Grand Champion (born Concept II) and the Concept I series. Racing will kick off around 11 a.m. on Sunday 24th and it should be a good day. The AIM Motorsport organized events generally are of a much higher standard than some of the other race day promotions at Bira.

The Dither Factor

Honestly, there’s no smoke without fire as they say, and I am sure this will bring feminine wrath down upon my head, but in my mind, there is little doubt about it - the old adage is true - women as a group are not good drivers. I was following one along Pattaya 2 the other morning and there she is, employing the Blissfully Unaware method of driving. Dribbling along at 20 kph and any lane will do. Even if it has a bus in it. The only way that kind of lady gets anywhere unscathed is through the abilities of the drivers around her.

Then there is the Dither Factor. There is a centre deep in the brain of our women-folk that precludes their making up their collective mind in anything that could be construed as a hurry. This is particularly obvious when parking. Give ‘em a choice of parking spots and the Dither Factor clicks in. The greater the choice, the longer the dither. Am I not correct?

Now before the entire female population descend on the Pattaya Mail offices waving cudgels and other implements of mutilation, there are exceptions to every rule. My first wife was a motor racer of no mean reputation in Australia and the equal of many a male racer. Then internationally there was Lella Lombardi who raced Formula 1, Janet Guthrie who raced at the Indy 500 and Christabel Carlisle an ace Mini racer - but it stops about there, girls. Sorry.

BMW AG Management in Thailand to discuss further expansion of BMW presence

The above was the heading on the latest press release from my good friends at BeeEmm. Apparently Prof. Dr. Joachim Milberg, chairman of the Board, BMW AG, and members of BMW top management visited Thailand recently to discuss the possibilities in extending BMW’s presence over here.

The release went on to say that the board’s visit demonstrated BMW’s commitment to establish Thailand as the ‘Munich of Asia’. What between the ‘Detroit of the East’ and now BMW’s claims, the next will be Toyota proclaiming itself to be the ‘Tokyo of Thailand’ I imagine.

Prof. Dr. Milberg also expressed his optimism towards the implementation of the AFTA agreement. He stated that the free market among ASEAN countries was only a question of time, “It took European countries 50 years to integrate themselves to be a cohesive union. Therefore, it would be unrealistic to expect that AFTA could be fully implemented in less than a decade after its initiation. However, we expect AFTA to be established much faster than the EU.” Additionally he stated, “BMW has always been positive on Asia, and we are strong supporters of the political move to develop a more integrated, free market.” Nice rhetoric, but hardly amounts to much. Everyone is sitting on their hands waiting for AFTA but I wouldn’t be holding my breath either. There’s too many vested interests out there in “Asialand”.

I really think the big nobs were here to see if we (Thailand) should begin production of the 5 series or the 7 series at the Amata City plant. Put your money on lucky number 7. You read it here first.

Fossil Fuels - on the way out? Do people really care?

A couple of weeks ago I had the temerity to say that I really did not care if there was no petrol left for my grandchildren to drive to the shops. This was not said in an unfeeling way, nor can you construe from this that I am an anti-environmentalist. No, I believe I am a realist. The stuff is going to dry up at some stage, so let’s look at what we can use as an alternative. It appears I am not the only one to think this way and the following is part of a Q&A session run in Automotive News with Ron Zarrella, president of GM North America

Q: What about fuel cells? Are you seriously into the gasoline reformer technology?

RZ: The reformation question with fuel cells is, can you get it done at gas stations - which is what we prefer - or do you have to do it on board? It is a lot more complicated and a lot more expensive if you have to do it on board. We’re working with companies like BP (Amoco) to look at the options for reformation at the fuel pump and how you store the hydrogen on the vehicle. How you store it safely and in enough quantities so that you have an effective range. There’s an awful lot of basic research going on with hydrogen storage. We’re actually partnering with some universities.

Q: Do you think that within the next decade fuel cells will be a significant contributor to environmental progress?

RZ: I think fuel cells will be commercially viable in the next decade. We’ve got a pretty big effort in our fuel cell development. I don’t want to go into detail other than to say that we’re really pretty encouraged with the progress being made in the efficiency in size and cost of fuel cells. It’s happening faster than we might have thought. We still have a long way to go. And the first application will likely be in stationary power distribution. We’ll learn a lot from that, and we’ll be able to parlay that into operating fuel cells in vehicles that people can actually afford.

There you are, GM, BMW, Toyota and every other thinking manufacturer is well down the track with the alternative fuel sources. Use as much gasoline as you like. It doesn’t matter!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I wrote about American, Frank Lockhart, in his Stutz Black Hawk who attempted the world land speed record in 1928. He did 203.45 mph in one direction, but it did not do the necessary run in the opposite direction. The question was - why?

The answer was simple. Unfortunately Frank had a monster accident with the car and he was thrown out at over 200 mph and died. A great shame, as Frank Lockhart was probably the class act of the day in American motorsport.

So to this week. Works Mercedes driver Herman Lang won the Swiss GP in 1939. The next time a Mercedes won the Swiss GP was in 1954, when the late and great J.M. Fangio stormed home to win, leading from start to finish. The question is - why did Mercedes never compete again at this GP?

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

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