by Dr. Iain Corness

Batman strikes again

Spotted this incredible make-over of a Toyota Hilux van in Soi 5 the other day. It has black rubber wings and things all over it, and as I walked towards it I began thinking that it was some sort of batmobile joke. When I looked at the back window, I realized it was no joke! Avoid it like the plague! Anyone who could drive this vehicle is mentally questionable.

Another (more desirable) car spotted

Spotted this one outside the Pattaya Marriott Resort and Spa, parked where you and I would have received a barrage of angry whistles and told to move on. This is a cool 26.5 million baht of Ferrari F575 M Maranello. To be quite candid, I found the styling to be very bland, and from the side looked like a scaled down early 70’s Mach 1 Mustang with the hip-line kick-up over the rear wheels, or even at a stretch the old 275 LM. You would have to be a real Ferrari fan to get one of these, even with its 515 bhp from the 5.7 litre V12. The brakes actually looked to me to be quite small when you take into consideration the potential top speed and performance.

The 575 M Maranello is one of the latest models produced by Ferrari (released in 2002) and is an evolution of the 550 Maranello. The 575, refers to its increase in engine capacity from 5500 cc to around 5750 cc, which has resulted in increased power and torque. The letter ‘M’ stands for ‘Modified’, to make you believe that every part of the car is modified vis-เ-vis the 550 Maranello.

The first obvious change is the fact that Ferrari have done away with the console gearshift, and you get one of Schumi’s paddle shifts on the steering wheel, like a real F1 car. That may impress some, but since you can get it on a Honda Jazz, I remain underwhelmed.

According to the factory, the principal modifications were limited to those required to deal with the technical changes: in particular different shape and size for the air intakes in the new front end of the car and a new treatment for the front spoiler. The headlights and wheels have also been modified. Wow! Almost a total makeover!

The objectives given to the engineers for the new V12 engine in the 575M Maranello were to increase both the power curve as well as the torque, when compared with the 550 Maranello. It now has a maximum power output of 515 bhp (379 Kw) at 7250 rpm and maximum torque of 588.6 Nm 5250 rpm. As our American friends would say, “There’s no substitute for cubic inches!”

Ferrari claim a 50-50 split between the front and rear axles, with the driver on board, thanks to a transaxle design which features a combined rear mounted gearbox and differential unit with conical torque and autolocking differential in the same unit.

It has an adaptive suspension with different settings, based on a system of independently controlled damping at all four corners of the car. The system is capable of selecting the ideal ride height for any condition, with two choices: Sport, which is selected for a more sporty ride, improving traction and Comfort, which gives a more comfortable ride, absorbing road bumps. Hopefully there is a third choice called “Thailand Roads”, which will give 600 mm of ground clearance to allow you to traverse any of the 13 million roadworks projects between Chiang Rai and Phuket.

Jokes aside, it certainly is a very advanced car technically, but I still say you have to be a very well heeled dyed in the wool Schumi fan to slap down 26.5 million baht so that you can park the thing where lesser mortals in Daihatsu Miras can’t go!

Natter Nosh and Noggin

The car (and bike) enthusiasts will be meeting again this Monday night (8th) at Shenanigans Pub at 7 p.m. This is a totally informal meeting of like minded souls which meets on the second Monday of every month to discuss their pet motoring (and motorcycling) loves and hates. It is free to join and I suggest that you bring along magazines or photographs so that the group can get involved in the discussion. Generally we have something to eat while we are there and wash it down with something amber, hence the name, Natter, Nosh and Noggin. Just ask any of the lovely Shenanigans girls where Dr. Iain and the group are and they will point us out and give you a push.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week, I mentioned that Noel Westwood and G.L. Davies circumnavigated a very large island by car in 1925. It took almost five months. I asked what was the car? Well, the island was Australia and the car was a Citroen 5CV. Not bad for 1925! Who said that Citroens weren’t reliable?

So to this week. Hands up all those who remember the Invicta marque.

The Invictas were interesting sporting machines, with the fastest having four and a half inches of ground clearance. Rather too low for today, and definitely too low in the 1930’s when they were in their heyday. The push behind the marque was Lord Macklin (who I think was the father of British racing driver Lance Macklin). In the late 1920’s an energetic young lady by the name of Violet Corderey drove an Invicta around the world and set the world 25,000 km record at 89 kph, a real piece of autotrivia! However, the S type Invictas were well built vehicles with all sorts of innovative features, such as a dual fuel feed system, using air pressure or electric pump, and telescopic shock absorbers all round. They had one other very innovative feature that related to the positioning of the starter switch. So after all that verbiage above, this week’s question is simply that - where was the switch? Now try and Google that one!

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

Good luck!

What did we learn from the final Grand Prix of 2004?

Well, we learned that even seven times world champ Michael Schumacher can get it wrong in practice and end up world chump, and it was a very subdued Schumi who had to use the spare car, qualifying 8th and then penalized 10 grid spots as well, to start 18th, down in Minardi country. However, he had made up eight spots on the first lap, and despite another spin, finished in the points in 7th place. Poor Ruby Baby is still waiting to win his home GP, and didn’t manage it again, despite starting from pole position.

Bernie Ecclestone

We also saw that Christian Klien doesn’t seem to understand how to let faster cars pass ‘cleanly’ if you’ll pardon the pun. His debut year has seen him collide with Schumi (twice), Coulthard (twice), Webber (twice) and a few others as well. The words he uses are always the same, “I saw him coming but didn’t think he would come up so fast!” That’s why we won’t see the young Austrian again next year (unless he buys a drive with Jordan). Jaguar even admitted during the year that he was not making the grade as a driver, even though his sack of gold was large enough.

Talking about large sacks, Juan Pablo Montoya showed that he has the fire and the skill to do the job, he just needs encouragement from his team. I feel he didn’t get that from BMW Williams. But will he get it from McLaren next year when he lines up alongside Raikkonen, the apple of Ron Dennis’ eye? I somehow doubt it, though Ron is already saying that McLaren has the environment to help Montoya.

And when I write about driving alongside Raikkonen brings me to another fact we learned from Brazil. Laughing boy Kimi Raikkonen wears blinkers, driving down the pit lane side by side with Montoya, and saying afterwards that he didn’t see him there. They only drove for 50 metres less than 300 mm apart! The stewards of the meeting were not impressed with his explanation, and laughing boy was fined $10,000.

So we now go into the ‘lay off’ season. The rules for 2005 are still not cast in stone, the teams are not happy, the engine suppliers are not happy, several circuits are not happy and several drivers ditto. While Ferrari and McLaren have their line up signed up (Schumi and Barichello in red, Montoya and Raikkonen in silver), there are many others who have yet to announce their pairings. BMW Williams, having lost the Jenson Button Contract Review Board fiasco, are yet to say who will partner Mark Webber, and Minardi and Jordan are shaking their donation tins to see who is willing to tip in the most. I have spoken before on ‘pay drivers’ and how these lower teams need drivers with real talent to get their cars further up the grid, but ‘real talent’ doesn’t pay for the privilege to drive. While Minardi and Jordan continue to look for ‘pay drivers’ they will continue to bring in the likes of Alex Yoong to fill the rear of the grid, and will not improve their own chances at getting further up that grid.

As the teams finalize their driver line-up, as the FIA finalizes the regulations, and Bernie Ecclestone finishes counting his money, I will keep you informed.


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