by Dr. Iain Corness
Your opportunity to
‘race’ in F1 in Melbourne March 7
The 2004 EffWun season kicks off in
Melbourne on March 7, and there is a strong possibility that
on the Sunday morning there will be a race put on for the
public using the Minardi 2 seater race cars. Unlike a full GP
drive, you don’t have to pay millions to get your bum in the
seat, because yours is the rear seat and you don’t get
pedals or a steering wheel. There is, however, a catch (there
always is, isn’t there)! You have to be an ‘A-list’
celebrity. Now all that is really not too difficult, and in
fact, if you have one of PM Thaksin’s Thailand Elite Cards,
then you are a poofteenth of the way there.
The concept of the 2 seat GP is just that -
a concept, but Paul Stoddart, el supremo at Minardi, has 10
cars waiting, painted in the colours of the different teams
and is confident that it will happen. “A lot of questions
have been asked and we’ve answered most of them,” replied
Stoddart. “Bear in mind that we’ve carried 1352 passengers
in the last four years, so we’re no strangers to this.
Obviously those that aren’t familiar with the two-seater
programme have a lot of questions and we’re trying to answer
2 seater (Note two crash helmets)
Stoddart continued during an interview on
pitpass.com saying, “This is a great opportunity for the
teams’ test and reserve drivers to drive the cars. All of
these guys are eager to get a full-time F1 drive, this will be
a fairly good shop window for them. None of them are going to
go out there and go totally nuts.”
The idea came about last year, said
Stoddart. “We had a team owners meeting at Hockenheim and
that’s when we said we’ve got to do something about Sunday
mornings, we’ve got to do something about giving the public
a bit more access and a bit more of a show. This fulfils all
of that. Anything to do with celebrity these days is big
business, it’s very popular. It would be a mini Grand
Prix,” he explained, “with a proper grid, grid girls,
pre-race interviews over the PA. The same countdown you get
with a real F1 race then away you go. It would be a ten lap
race, maximum, or fifty kilometres.”
“The only other issue is insurance,” he
admits. “And that is a risk, it’s a dangerous sport, but
so is downhill skiing or motorcycling (especially in
Thailand). Personally I think you have to balance risk against
reward. When we had the King of Spain tearing round Barcelona
with Brundle in the McLaren (2-seater) a few years ago, if
Martin had gone off and into the barriers there would have
been an uproar. Therefore we simply have to insist that the
drivers drive within themselves. A majority of the time,
passengers get to experience great lap times and a thrilling
day, the key to it all is not pulling the Gs in the corners.
If you want you passengers to last ten laps you don’t throw
it through the corners.”
So are you still up for it? Well, not only
must you be A-list (perhaps buy two Elite cards to be sure)
then you also have to pass a medical. This is a full MSA
(Motor Sports Association) medical. If you are over 45 it
includes a full ECG, so you’ll have to get there early,
because you’ll be getting the full ECG. Stoddart says,
“There are no exceptions, you fail - you don’t run, it’s
as simple as that.” However, don’t despair, I used to be
the Medical Officer for the Confederation of Australian Motor
Sports in Oz, so I’m sure I can whizzle you through!
Now the best news is that you don’t have
to be A-list, as they will also be letting some members of the
F1 viewing public in behind the drivers, but they will still
have to pass the medical. That will cost you a return ticket
BKK-Melbourne-BKK for me, and my accommodation and pit passes
for the GP. I will supply my own ECG equipment.
Whilst the above is a little ‘tongue in cheek’, the
concept is real and very likely to happen. For me I couldn’t
give a rat’s bottom as to whether the singing budgie Kylie
Minogue or Arnie get a passenger run on Sunday morning. I am
only interested in seeing the 20 best drivers in the world
going head to head on Sunday afternoon. And I am damn sure
that is not what I am going to get! F1 will return to its
previously exalted status when that happens, not by having
“races” in 2-seaters for rich and overindulged
A future world champion?
For all those hopefuls who are now aged
around 17 and looking at getting out of karts and into
‘proper’ racing cars, I have nothing but bad news. You
have left your run a little late! 17? You’re over the hill.
Forget about the fact that Kimi Raikkonen came second last
year and Fernando Alonso in 2003 made history by becoming the
youngest driver to win a round of the Formula One World
Championship, and remains on track to become the sport’s
youngest World Champion, as does Kimi Raikkonen. For the up
and coming brigade, it’s too late.
Don’t believe me, meet John Edwards of
the USA. This month, John Edwards, from Little Rock, Arkansas,
won both rounds of the Skip Barber Formula Dodge Race Series,
to become the youngest race winner in the history of the
series and the youngest driver to win a single-seater race in
the US, and possibly anywhere else. Wait for it - John is 12.
He is the youngest driver ever to compete in the 28 year
history of the Skip Barber Race Series; though a handful of 15
year olds have contested the series previously.
Having taken pole position in qualifying on
Saturday morning, John led the 13 car field from flag to flag
in the 30 minute race for his first car victory. He backed up
his impressive and possibly record-setting Saturday win with
another victory on Sunday, with a startling 25 second margin -
in pouring rain - over second place finisher Atle
(grandfather) Gulbrandsen, 25 years old from Norway.
According to reports, Edwards, a karter who
stepped up into Formula Dodge in October 2003, has shown race
craft and discipline that belies his age. The cars used in the
series are identically prepared 2 litre, wings and slicks 220
kph open wheel, single seat Formula Dodges.
Could we see a world champ that doesn’t know how to
Bangkok Motor Show looking
better than ever
Here’s a date to remember, March 26-April 4. That is the
Bangkok International Motor Show and this year has attracted
even more international attention, with autoscribblers from
all over the world flying in to Bangkok for the event. Our own
down-under correspondent, John Weinthal will be there, and
this year we will also cover the show on the new Pattaya Mail
Plus TV. I will keep you informed as to what we can expect to
see, but at this stage I do know there will be a world release
Benz from DaimlerChrysler. The show will be held at BITEC
which is km 1 Bangna-Trad Road. It is right at the end of the
On the right tracks
One of the regular readers sent me an
interesting snippet the other day. I have no idea if it is
true, because I have not traveled on a train since 1955, but
it reads well! See what you think.
Does the statement, “We’ve always done
it that way” ring any bells? The US standard railroad gauge
(distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. Now,
that’s an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used?
that’s the way they built them in England, and English
expatriates built the US Railroads.
Why did the English build them like that?
Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who
built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they
Why did “they” use that gauge then?
Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs
and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that
Okay! Why did the wagons have that
particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any
other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the
old, long distance roads in England, because that’s the
spacing of the wheel ruts.
So who built those old rutted roads?
Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe
(and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever
And the ruts in the roads? Roman war
chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to
match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the
chariots were made for imperial Rome, they were all alike in
the matter of wheel spacing.
Therefore, the United States standard
railroad gauge matches the specifications for an Imperial
Roman war chariot. And, bureaucracies live forever.
So the next time you are handed a spec and
told we have always done it that way and wonder which
horse’s ass came up with that, you may be exactly right,
because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide
enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses.
Now a little twist to the story. When you
see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two
big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel
tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. These SRBs are
made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who
designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit
fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the
factory to the launch site.
The railroad line from the factory happens
to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit
through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the
railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is
about as wide as two horses’ behinds. So, a major Space
Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world’s most
advanced transportation system was determined over two
thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s ass.
And you thought being a horse’s ass
(Thank you Peter Cheshire!)
Last week I featured the Ford Mustang, so
asked a Mustang question - what was the Mustang model driven
by Steve McQueen in Bullitt? It was a Mustang GT 390 that he
used in the chase with the Dodge Charger. Despite all the car
chase movies that have been done since, for sheer excitement
and tension, I reckon Bullitt still tops them all. Does anyone
have a copy on VCD? I was lucky enough to be invited to the
premiere in Australia way back then and I’d love to see it
And so to this week. From the sublime to
the ‘Gorblime’. What car was the little sister to the
Zwickau P70 of 1955-59? Clue - some lucky people have actually
seen one moving under its own power.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be
the first correct answer to email [email protected]