Italian GP at Monza this weekend
From the beginning, Monza was an important
venue and, from 1922 has hosted the Italian GP almost every
year. Indeed, its opening caused members of the Brescia
Automobile Club to instigate the Mille Miglia. Brescia had
lost its previous high status in Italian motor sport with the
coming of Monza. There was also ancient rivalry in that Monza
is in Piedmont and Brescia is in Lombardy.
This level of passion has long been a
feature of Italian racing and is nowhere better experienced
than at Monza when Ferrari is present. The word is
‘present’, not ‘racing’, the tifosi will turn out by
the ten thousand just for testing.
Like many other circuits, Monza has not
been a single layout, but a series of more than a dozen
layouts which have ranged in length from 1.482 miles to 6.214
miles. The circuit was opened in the Monza Royal Park, near
Milan, in 1922 and featured bankings, though these were
demolished in 1939. The bankings which featured in some races,
1955-69, were new structures built on the format of the
original. Bankings were used for the Italian GP in 1955,
’56, ’60 and ’61, and were last used for racing of any
form in 1969 when the concrete became in need of substantial
resurfacing and rebuilding.
From 1950 to 1954, the purely road circuit
was 3.915 miles long, but the layout was eased, slightly
shortened (to 3.571 miles) and made faster for 1957 and 1958.
That is not a misprint, the track was made faster and easier
to overtake on.
Between 1962 and 1971 this revised circuit
provided an opportunity for high-speed racing with lots of
slipstreaming and overtaking. The 1971 Italian GP holds the
record for the fastest-ever Formula One race but,
emphatically, that is not the same as saying the fastest race
for Grand Prix cars. Though you would not know it to listen to
some people, that honour remains in the possession of the 1937
After 1971, the circuit underwent some
revisions to discourage slipstreaming and to lower the average
lap speed. Chicanes were added in 1976 and, in 1994, the
second Lesmo Bend was tightened and the Curve Grande was
to go, can Alonso hang on?
Currently, the McLaren Mercedes are the
class act of the 2005 F1 circus, especially with Kimi
Raikkonen in the driving seat. Forget Michael Schumacher, his
name will not be on the trophy this year for the World
Championship. It is going to be a showdown between Renault’s
Alonso and Raikkonen, both young guns, and both talented young
guns. Fisichella, the second driver in the Renault team knows
what he is supposed to do, and just like in Turkey, will let
Alonso pass very easily, but will attempt to block Raikkonen.
McLaren’s second driver, Juan Pablo Montoya, who considers
himself the lead driver (no matter how many championship
points he doesn’t have), is not likely to do the same for
Raikkonen, so young Kimi is on his own. It will be
I believe the GP will start at 7 p.m., but
as always check your local TV feed. We watch at Jameson’s
Irish Pub where we can get the South African feed, so we miss
the Star Sports tele-bletherers, and the extremely annoying
music that UBC feels is better entertainment than the adverts!
We generally get there around 6 p.m. and have a bite to eat
before the action starts.
Valentino Rossi is amazing. Anyone who has
watched the spindly Italian, marvels at what he can do on two
wheels. I have never seen anyone like him, and I’ve been
following bike racing for a few years now, and even raced
moto-X for four years (where I followed most of the field as
For those of you who would like
tuition/experience on two wheels there are training courses
run at the Bira Circuit outside Pattaya by Graham Knight of
HighSideTours Co. You can contact him on +66 9119 0000, or fax
+66 2256 6541, or email graham.knight @highside tours.com.
There are regular track days, and if you’re good enough, you
can even join in the odd race or two. There is also a lease
plan so that you can have your own bike for competition
purposes. Graham has even promised to throw a couple of
trainer wheels on a bike for me and reckons he has a 57 year
old Kiwi who would like to have a crack at me. All I have to
do between now and then is to see if Rossi does courses by
The PPV -
Perpendicular People Mover
For the past few months, the Indonesian
built Toyota Avanza has been arriving in Thailand, and whilst
not as popular as some of the other Toyota people movers,
sales have been quite strong, judging by the number of them on
With Toyota having the Innova, the Wish,
and the Foretuner, one wonders just why Toyota would have yet
another people mover in its line-up. However, a look at the
price sticker quickly shows why. Innova, Wish and Foretuner
are all around 1.2 million baht, while the Avanza is around
650,000 baht. Half price. So do you only get half the
features? Having now had the opportunity to study an Avanza
close up for the past week, I can honestly say there are very
few areas where the Avanza is lacking, compared to its more
The most obvious difference is in the
engine. No three litre diesel or 2.4 litre gasoline engine,
the Avanza has a 1.3 litre petrol power plant up front, which
on paper sounds as if it will be dreadfully underpowered, but
on the road turned out to be perfectly adequate to run with
the daily city traffic. Even on the motorways, Avanza cruised
at 120-140 kph, and with the overdrive function on the auto
transmission, the engine was not too ‘busy’ at those
As regards transmissions, I firmly believe
that auto is the only way to go in Thailand’s stop-start
traffic. Who wants to be clutching and shifting every few
seconds? As a bonus that many people do not realize, auto
transmissions are also far easier on the total drive train,
and you are not replacing clutches and drive shafts. One
slight negative is the under-gearing of the standard auto
transmission ratios in the Avanza. Use of the overdrive button
brings the ratios in to a much better range, and after the
first half hour was left continuously in overdrive mode,
without any real downside in acceleration.
While on the drive train, Avanza is a
return to the conventional front engine, rear wheel drive,
with a ‘cart axle’ and coil spring rear end. Other than a
transmission tunnel, which is not overly intrusive, the
benefits of this layout include a much smaller turning circle,
as front wheel drive CV joints end up giving other vehicles
the turning circle of the Queen Mary. Avanza can U-turn in my
street with ease, where others are still three point turning.
At the 650,000 baht price for the top of
the line, I was not expecting much, but the package was much
more than basic. Air-conditioning was effective in the front,
with easily adjusted rotary dials, plus another control unit
in the roof lining for the rear passengers, complete with fan
speed and directional outlets.
The model as tested also had ABS and power
steering. The latter was excellent, without being over-powered
and still retained good feel at highway speeds. The ABS I did
not test, but I am sure it was there!
Door pockets and knick-knack holes were
plentiful, and the owner will quickly work out what should go
where. The model as tested came with remote locking, plus
automatic locking on take-off and unlocking on turning off the
engine. For families this is an excellent feature.
Seating was comfortable, and when in the
maxi-people mode, it is possible to transport seven in the
Avanza. There was enough leg room for the second row
passengers, even when the driving seat was fully back. The
‘occasional’ rear seats fold up and then sit flat very
easily, and one does not have to carry out two unlockings at
the one time. In the five person configuration, there is a
very good load carrying capacity, and the rear door opens
right up for easy access.
After one week, I had forgotten that there
was only a 1.3 litre engine up front, but the excellent fuel
consumption figures could remind me at the petrol pumps. By
the way, it takes 91 octane, another small saving.
For me, the only downside to the Avanza was
the styling (or lack of it). Where the Wish is very stylish
and the Foretuner very macho, Avanza looks as if it were
designed to carry giraffes down crowded narrow Japanese
alleyways. The Perpendicular People Mover!
The vehicle tested was supplied by Thonburi
Toyota, but I was so impressed I bought it! At 650,000 baht it
is difficult to go past this vehicle, which despite its
bargain basement price, has all the features one would want
and expect on more expensive people movers.
Last week, I mentioned the fact that a very
famous sports car began its life with a 34 year old six
cylinder overhead camshaft engine. This was then replaced by
another six cylinder engine having the same name as a British
port. This in turn was replaced by a six cylinder engine from
a model of a car named after a wind. Finally, someone threw in
a large lump of American iron, and it became a motoring icon.
I asked what was the name of the original car? It was the AC,
which eventually turned into the AC Cobra, having had the AC
engine, then a Bristol engine, a Ford Zephyr and then
ever-increasing sizes of Ford V8’s.
So to this week. A very high performance
American two door coupe featured a cartoon character and a
crazy horn. It was capable of over 300 kph in the track
versions, but even the road-going version was capable of 225
kph. What was the cartoon character’s name?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be
the first correct answer to email automania @pattayamail .com