What did we learn from the Malaysian Grand Prix?
Renault bagged their second win from two Grands
Prix, with Fernando Alonso, the 23 year old Spaniard driving away
from everyone, with a most impressive performance. Before the race
I was informed that odds on Alonso to win the world championship
were standing at 15:1. They will be shorter now.
We also saw it might be time to trade in the
Ferrari and buy a Toyota. If the race results at Sepang are
anything to go by, then ditch the F50 and get a Toyota Vios! How
the mighty have fallen. Michael Schumacher at one stage lapped by
Trulli in the Toyota, who by coming in second gave Toyota their
first podium. Who would ever have thought this could happen? There
would have been a queue at the confessional at Maranello on
And while on the Japanese invasion, Honda had
the weekend to forget, with both BAR Honda’s detonating on the
second lap! Jenson Button complaining loudly, “Compared to last
year, we’ve taken a huge step back in every area. It’s just
not good enough. The annoying thing is that we are quick. Our pace
was very good considering the amount of fuel we had on board.
It’s got to change but I don’t think it’s going to change
straightaway and that’s the only worry.” He then finished by
saying, “I’m angry, I’m very angry.” I’m sure that will
not endear him to his employers, Messrs. Honda at BAR! And perhaps
it may also be a reflection on the fact that previous boss David
Richards was shown the door at the end of last year.
Whilst Renault could smell victory all the way
from the start to the finish with Alonso, their other driver
Fisichella, the winner two weeks ago, did not have the best of
weekends. With tyres that were obviously shot, he was hounded and
then passed by the BMW Williams of Mark Webber and they then
indulged in a pass and repass duel, ending up with the Renault
sliding into the Williams, and both lost their chance at third
step on the podium, handing it to Nick Heidfeld, who said
“Danke” and smiled all the way to the finish.
The McLaren team were slowly pulling up through
the order, with Raikkonen getting the better of Montoya, but then
blew a tyre, which blew his chances of gaining any points.
While the first half of the race was quite
frankly dull, in the second half we actually saw some racing
drivers having a go at racing each other! Ralf Schumacher was
involved in a few argy-bargys, while the other biff and bash
merchant Jacques Villeneuve did not get close enough to the action
to actually race anybody, and finished his day sliding into the
kitty litter. It was no loss.
We also saw that David Coulthard seems to have
been given a new lease of life at Red Bull. He actually looks like
he is enjoying not having a Finn as the other driver in the team,
and Klien even kept his nose clean and also finished in the
With the next race being in Bahrain next
weekend, there will be much burning of the candles at Ferrari and
BAR Honda. Do not be surprised if Ferrari bring the Pope to help
in the pits, while the Japanese engineers at BAR will be bringing
Hara-Kiri swords, for use in face saving emergencies.
Motor Show on
The Bangkok International Motor Show will
run until April 23. This is the 26th annual holding of this
event, and should not be confused with the smaller event held
later in the year, which is run by the motor dealers as a way
to get you into a car!
The Bangkok International Motor Show is the
one sanctioned by the world body, and so ‘our’ show rates
alongside that of Detroit, Frankfurt, Tokyo and Paris.
Consequently you will find the displays are run by the
manufacturers, rather than the end sales point dealerships.
With the world gripped by the fear of
running out of oil (or it becoming just too expensive), the
theme for this year’s show in Bangkok is that geared towards
energy-saving and fuel-efficient vehicles. “Thailand spends
more than 200 billion baht for fuel every year, and we need to
lower this figure as much as we can,” said Jaturont
Komolmis, the vice-chairman of the motor show organizing
With the yo-yo fuel prices and the relaxing
of the diesel subsidy, this means we should be looking at
economy running, not necessarily ‘economy’ cars. The
concept now is fuel efficiency. It is for this reason that
diesel passenger cars are so popular in Europe. The fuel is
not much cheaper than gasoline, but diesel engines are much
Hybrid vehicles will be prominent at the
show, with Toyota currently the market leader with its Prius.
Last year saw 120,000 Prius vehicles sold across the world,
and Toyota has the Lexus RX330 hybrid coming as well.
Not far behind is Honda, which makes hybrid
versions of the Civic and the Accord, as well as the
hybrid-only Insight. GM has a couple on the way towards
production, while Ford have already released the Escape
The Thai government is also looking at
promoting fuel efficiency and has reduced excise duties for
environmentally friendly cars from around 48 percent to 10
percent. The consumer wins twice! Cheaper running and cheaper
Natural gas is another alternative fuel, and
DaimlerChrysler will have some natural gas powered vehicles on
show, as well as their priceless vintage and veteran cars
brought over from their museum in Germany.
Infineon Cup cars
The name Porsche is synonymous with some of
the finest innovative auto engineering that the world has ever
seen. Mention the electric hub motors in the Lunar Lander and
you can also say Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. No, he did not design
the craft sent into space to crawl over the surface of the
moon, but he invented the electric hub motor system in around
1902 (the Lohner-Porsche).
For me, nothing demonstrates more that
racing improves the breed, than the 911 series Porsche
vehicles. Released in 1968 as a two litre rear engined
fast-back style two door sports car, the basic design has been
steadily improved upon, drawing heavily upon racing experience
to introduce the new engineering from the race cars into the
road vehicles. Porsches are vehicles to ‘drive’ not just
to be seen in, or park outside your favourite restaurant.
Having owned one Porsche and raced another two, I can state
from personal experience that these are vehicles like no
GT3 race car
The Porsche Carrera Cup, a one make series,
began in 1990 using Porsche Carrera vehicles. 14 years later
the Porsche Carrera Cup has become not only world class, but
is now one of the support races for the Formula 1 circus. In
the last two years, the Porsche Carrera Cup has also come to
Asia, with a travelling circus going to Malaysia, Korea,
China, Macau and Thailand.
One of the newer 911 Carrera variants is
called the GT3. Be prepared to dig deep for one of these, as
with the governmental import (impost!) you will need more than
12 million baht in the piggy bank. I can assure you that these
are fine motor cars – but there is another variant of the
GT3. This is the GT3 Cup racecar. This is a fine example of
taking something that was already superb and making it that
you, when you lay out your EUR 105,900 to buy your one,
excluding tax and ex factory, you don’t even get a passenger
seat. The Porsche Carrera Cup cars are designed to do one
thing only. Win races.
The body shell for a Carrera Cup racer is
designated as that, as it comes down the assembly line.
Additional welding takes place to increase the stiffness even
more, and a steel roll cage is incorporated at that stage. The
wheels are 18 inches in diameter and are 9 inches wide at the
front and 11 inches wide at the rear and shod with Michelin
The engines are all 3.6 litre water cooled
boxer (horizontally opposed) six cylinders pumping out 390 BHP
at 7,300 RPM. These are not, however, highly tuned
‘finicky’ engines, but ones that the Asian series vehicle
maintenance manager Eddie Koay told me will run for two years
before they are looked at, and only then as a preventive plan,
not because they have reached the end of their life span.
Racing certainly does improve the breed.
Much attention to detail is paid to the
actual bodywork itself, with extensive use of carbon-fibre
used for the rear engine cover and doors fitted with thin
perspex windows. The very dominant rear wing has a seven
position adjustment range so the teams can set up their cars
to suit the characteristics of the circuits for high downforce
or for high speed. The seat is a special race seat with fire
retardant upholstery, though the car is also fitted with an
on-board fire extinguishing system.
The mechanical specifications are such that
all Porsche Cup GT3’s are identical. Not only is it a
one-make series, but it is a very tightly controlled series
where all vehicles have the same performance. At the rounds I
attended, there were no mechanical maladies, but the mechanics
were kept busy repairing some close encounters of the
accidental kind! The racing is certainly close and cut-throat.
Thai racing drivers have embraced the
Porsche Infineon Carrera Cup Asia, with Nattavude narrowly
being beaten into second place last year in the series. The
business world has also realized the benefits of racing, and
the Thai entrepreneur Bill Heinecke (the fastest pizza
delivery in the East) is now one of the regulars.
However, to show the importance of the GT3
and the Carrera Cup, one of the other drivers for the series
this year is none other than H.E. Sontaya Khunplome, the
advisor to the prime minister.
If you would like to join the Porsche
Infineon Carrera Cup Asia you can contact Ian Geekie, email
geekie@ tm.net.my or you can contact the factory at Dr. Ing.
h.c. F. Porsche, Aktiengesellschaft, Sales – Special and
Motorsport cars, Porschestrasse, 71287 Weissach, Germany. Oh
yes, you will also need your deposit of EUR 15,000 due when
the order is signed. If you are looking for the driver, I am
Last week, I wrote about the first
international motor race in the UK which was won by a
Mercedes. I asked who was driving it? The event was the 1903
Gordon Bennett Trophy race and it was won by Camille Jenatzy
driving a Mercedes. The event was held in Ireland over 320
miles and Jenatzy won at an average speed of 49.2 miles per
hour! Not bad for 1903!
So to this week. 100 mph (160 kph in the
new money) for 24 hours is a fairly outstanding average. Which
car was the first to do it, and when?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be
the first correct answer to email [email protected]