A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Pierre
Levegh (real name Pierre Bouillon), who was killed in 1955 at
the Le Mans 24 hour race when his Mercedes went out of control
and went into the crowd killing 83 and injuring many more.
Mercedes withdrew from racing at that point and did not return
until many years later. I then asked last week, which other
manufacturer, despite winning their class also withdrew from
racing, scrapping all their race cars, other than one example
to be kept as a museum piece. The answer was Bristol.
to this week. Take a look at the photograph of this woman. She
has probably influenced automotive history more than any other
woman in the world. Who is she? I need her first and last
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be
the first correct answer to email email@example.com
The best racing
driver of all time?
With Michael Schumacher scooping the
pool and well on the way to his 7th World title by a huge
margin, is Schumi the greatest?
I do not believe so, and I ask you to
look critically at the records of Schumacher and Juan
Manuel Fangio. It is always difficult to compare drivers
from another era. These days there are 17 or so F1 races
on the annual calendar, while before there was about half
this number. Races are much shorter today, both in
distance and in time. Three hours was commonplace in the
1950s. The cars are very different, and in the ‘good old
days’ the drivers were totally in control. There was no
launch or traction control, or automatic gearboxes.
So to be able to compare results all
that you can do is look at how many wins or podiums the
drivers have managed, as a percentage of the total F1
races they had entered.
Taking Juan Manuel Fangio first. To win
his five world championships, he competed in 51 F1 Grands
Prix, and won 24 of them. Put another way, he won 47
percent of all the GP’s he started in. Now if you look
at total podiums, Fangio had 35, that means that he ended
up on the podium in 69 percent of all the F1 events he
lined up for.
Now let’s apply the same yard-stick
to Michael Schumacher. He has won 82 of the 207 GP’s he
has been in, so he has won only 39.6 percent of his F1
events. Total podiums for Schumi are 134, that is 65
percent of the time he has ended up on the podium.
Conclusion - Fangio won a greater percentage of his
events than Schumi has done, and ended up on the podium
more times percentage-wise as well. Juan Manuel Fangio
What did we learn from the
First off, we learned that despite 20 of
the so-called finest racing cars in the world and 20 of the
so-called best drivers in the world, they could combine to
produce one and a half hours of sheer tedium. I am happy for
Ferrari in that they showed their superiority (again) and have
already won the manufacturer’s championship, but the rest of
the nine teams were crap and the race likewise. It was a
the end of the (dreadful) Star coverage, with the inane
tele-bletherers Slater and Goodwin, they have the “exciting
moments” of the race replay for viewers to vote upon.
Normally they have five of these. At Hungary they could only
dredge up four. And what a four! Zonta gently running into
Webber on the first corner, Trulli stopping on the main
straight (no, I am not making this up - footage of a car
parking), Webber’s spin and Michael Schumacher getting the
chequered flag. A reflection on just how dead-set boring the
race really was.
Why do I say those unkind words? Because
they are true, that’s why. 27 percent of the remaining cars
(other than Ferrari) did not make it to the finish. Ron
Dennis’ Mercedes-McLaren lasted 13 laps before expiring. Not
bad for a multi-million dollar motorcar! The Sauber managed 21
laps, Toyota got all the way to 31, Renault staggered to 41
and Eddie Jordan’s Jordan managed 48 laps out of the 70.
The FIA know they have a problem, but I am still waiting
for them to come up with concepts that will produce exciting
racing, where we can see real drivers fighting their cars and
the other competitors. If the FIA asked any of the local
viewers they would hear, get rid of the wings, get rid of all
electronic aids and make the drivers shift gears and use the
clutch. Forget the ceramic brakes and go to metal discs again
to lengthen the braking distances. That’s not a bad start.
Then they would hear there should be no refueling, and no new
tyres. We want to see drivers passing each other on the track.
Not in the pits, and if I hear the word “strategy” again,
I think I’ll scream!
Thailand is not the only
country with shortsighted legislators
A researcher in Australia has discovered
that fatalities between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Australian roads
from 2000 to 2003 were more than double those between 8 a.m.
and 10 a.m. The number of fatal crashes peaked at 106 for the
hour after 3 p.m. in both 2000 and 2001, which compares to an
average of 48 in the morning peak hour.
The researcher challenged the commonly held
view that Australians die alone, late at night, driving on
country roads. Holden Performance Driving Centre general
manager Russell White provided his findings to a
driver-fatigue inquiry being conducted by Queensland
Parliament’s Travelsafe Committee.
“People on the roads at the danger times,
whether they be tradesmen coming home from work, mothers
picking up their children from school or office workers
finishing for the day, are distracted and somewhat fatigued -
even if there is plenty of daylight left,” says White.
“Fatigue is not just lack of sleep. It’s going through the
regular tasks on auto-pilot, thinking about the kids, the job,
the shopping, the night ahead.” Russell White’s submission
urges the all-party committee to consider education
initiatives and improving driver reviver stops.
So what do you think the parliamentary
committee made of all this? The Travelsafe chairman Jim
Pearce, the MP for Fitzroy (an Australian electorate), said
the committee would consider recommending tough police powers
to reduce the number of fatalities caused by tired drivers! An
Aussie government’s “War against Sleep”.
This brought the response from Russell
White, “How do you police fatigue? You can’t take a random
sleep test. You can only ask people when they had their last
sleep,” he said.
Bureaucratic minds are very small!
Mitsubishi troubles overseas
A couple of weeks ago, I noted that the
president and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors Thailand (MMTh),
Hisayoshi Kumai, claimed that the Laem Chabang assembly plant
is working at capacity, and despite problems elsewhere,
including the parent company in Japan, there were no plans to
down-size, and in fact they were looking at expansion in
Thailand, with more dealerships. Mitsubishi Japan had promised
a 21 billion baht expansion fund for MMTh, but new CEO Kumai
claims this is still happening, despite plant closures in
Japan and Australia. “The investment is well underway and
being carried out in stages,” he said. For Mitsubishi’s
sake, and for the local employment situation, I hope this
continues. However, things do not look good overseas, and
since much of the local production is for export, there could
be a knock-back effect to the Laem Chabang production
In the US, Automotive News reports that the
trouble at Mitsubishi has thrown the company’s product plans
into disarray and left U.S. dealers in the dark about what new
models to expect. Several products under development have been
reviewed, revised, canceled, reconsidered or in some cases
reinstated. Most of Mitsubishi’s stand-alone U.S.
dealerships are losing money, the CEO of the automaker’s
North American operations conceded last week.
In Japan in July, Mitsubishi Motors new vehicle sales fell
to 50 percent of the numbers from a year earlier, now down to
15,862. The company tried to say that the sales were on
target, but it hard to imagine any target being 50 percent
down, especially since this is in the overall scenario where
total sales of all vehicles in Japan eased by only 0.3
The best engine in Formula 1
There could be much debate over this
subject. But there is really no contest. The best engine is
Ferrari, narrowly edging out Ford Cosworth. Fortunately there
are people with plenty of spare time who collect the
statistics, and as of last weekend the scores for GP’s won,
by engine manufacturer, are:
Climax 40 (the old ‘fire-pump’ engine)