What did we learn from the Italian GP?
Well we (finally) got to hear (from the
horse’s mouth) that Michael Schumacher is to retire at the
end of the year, but we also learned that he is to go into
(if it were Thailand) an “inactive post” with Ferrari. This
is actually nothing new, think back to Rudi Caracciola (pre
WWII) and Juan Manuel Fangio who both received a new
Mercedes every year to be ‘ambassadors’ for Mercedes (Fangio
also opened a Mercedes dealership). Consider this, a new
‘Michael Schumacher Ferrari’ dealership that could sell
Ferraris with a special autographed ‘Michael Schumacher
World Champion’ badge will make money before the doors even
open, so register the business name now and sell out for a
large profit January 1, 2007.
With all the brouhaha about Michael’s retirement and Kimi
(laughing boy) Raikkonen going to Ferrari, it seems most
people overlooked the fact that Robert Kubica (pronounced
“Koobitsa” by the way) came third on his third GP, having
held off some very experienced runners all the way,
including current World Champion Alonso. Forget about the
first Polish driver etc., etc., just concentrate on the fact
that a novice from any country has come third on his third
GP ever. He also scored the fourth fastest lap after
Michael, Kimi and Massa (and that was faster than Alonso),
and outdrove his much more experienced team mate Heidfeld.
Kubica was chosen by BMW’s Dr. Mario Theissen, after I
believe they managed to get the crowbar under Jacques
Villeneuve. Kubica has a great future. BMW have now managed
to claim two podiums this year, which is more than Williams
F1, BMW’s previous bed partners.
Kimi signed the contract before the US GP it is now being
said, so what will he do between now and the new 2007
season? I can understand his wishing to be seen to be able
to challenge Schumacher on Ferrari’s home turf last weekend,
but will he get in the way of the Alonso-Schumacher world
title battle for the last three races? Kimi may have no
personality, but he (or his manager) is not dumb. With his
three year multi-million dollar Ferrari contract in his
pocket, is Kimi going to upset the Ferrari party? What do
What else did we learn from the Italian GP? Well, to me it
looks as if David Coulthard has gone into a deep depression.
From the start of the season when he was getting right into
the top half of the field, he is now struggling to stay in
front of the “B” team of Squadro Roro Tossa. Let us hope
that the new Red Bull car, designed by Adrian Newey, will
get DC fired up again. Perhaps his new 2007 team mate Mark
Webber will also give him someone to catch.
Finally, does Bernie Ecclestone have a “Detonate” button
that he can use to bring the results closer than otherwise?
Ferrari could not have asked for more when Alonso’s engine
went kaboom, bringing the difference in the points to two,
and thank you Bernie. That is Alonso’s first kaboom in
almost three years, by the way.
So now, roll on the Chinese GP on October 1. By the way,
please note that the race will start at 1 p.m. Thai time, so
check your local TV feed.
Last week I asked which British car company began as a
piston manufacturer? The answer was Alvis which started life
as Alloy Pistons Limited, a fact that was brought to my
attention by George Comino, lately of Pattaya, but now back
in Australia. Never mind George, they’ll let you come back
for good behavior! Poor Alvis got swallowed up by Rover in
1965 and was killed by them two years later!
So to this week. There is a hill climb course in England
whose name was incorporated into a car company. By reversing
the names of the founder and the hill climb, you get the
name of the car make, which is still going today (and in
fact, if you have deep enough pockets, you can buy it). What
is the name of the hill climb? Clue, the founder sold the
company to two gentlemen called Renwick and Bertelli in
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email firstname.lastname@example.org
Chairman of Geely to speak at China conference
If you haven’t heard of Geely Automobile Holdings, then you
haven’t been reading the right newspapers. Geely’s chairman,
Li Shufu, the Chinese entrepreneur, will address the third
annual China Conference hosted by Automotive News and
Automotive News Europe.
The reason why Li is so important in the Chinese automotive
scene (which will have taken over the world by 2015,
according to my crystal ball) is that Li was China’s first
private automaker. In the mid-1990s, when he decided to
start an auto company, neither the government nor the
country’s banks would help Li in his aim. He finally got a
license in 1997 by acquiring a dying state-owned company.
Now Geely is working with top overseas suppliers to develop
cars for export, and is gearing up Geely Automobile Holdings
Group to sell cars in the United States, as well as in Asia.
Another top speaker at the China Conference will be Phil
Murtaugh, former head of General Motors’ China operations.
Murtaugh was hired this summer as executive vice president
of SAIC Motor Corp. to manage the Shanghai-based automaker’s
overseas operations. SAIC bought MG, remember!
The November 15-18 conference takes place just before the
Beijing auto show. Speakers will discuss issues facing
domestic and international automakers and suppliers in the
world’s fastest-growing major market. The world ignores
China at its own peril.
Porsche makes the ultimate 911 Turbo?
Do you remember the first Porsche Turbo
of 1974? Perhaps I am showing my age, but I certainly do.
This version of the 911 came 10 years after the debut of the
911 in September 1964, so the new Turbo, which retains the
same basic shape, is now 42 years old!
In 1974, Porsche had successfully developed the KKK
turbochargers for use in competition and when they applied
this technology to the 911, the end result was simply
staggering. The top 911 Carrera had been developing 210 bhp
at 6,300 rpm, and in came the new Turbo which delivered 260
bhp at 5,500 rpm. The torque figures were even more
spectacular, going from 188 ft/lb at 5,100 rpm to 253 ft/lb
at 4,000 rpm. To keep this projectile on the ground, Porsche
also introduced the huge ‘whale tail’ rear engine cover
spoiler, which made the Turbo even more exciting in its
Now 32 years later, Porsche has unveiled the latest
reincarnation of the 911 Turbo, and if you thought the old
one was staggering, try this new one for size! In this
sixth-generation 911 Turbo, the power plant is a 3.6 liter
flat 6 cylinder engine equipped with two turbochargers.
Power has been increased to 480 bhp, with peak torque 460
lb/ft, which is available from 1,950 rpm and continuing
through 5,000 rpm. If that is not enough, you can order the
Sports Chrono option which allows you to have over 500 lb/ft
of torque at your disposal. That is twice the power of the
This increase in power can be attributed to the newly
designed turbocharger that feature Variable Turbine Geometry
(VTG). The VTG technology adjusts the angle of each turbine
blade within the charger so it remains at top efficiency no
matter what the speed, which basically combines the
attributes of a large and small turbocharger into one. This
was not possible previously because of the high levels of
heat generated by exhaust gasses; however, Porsche has
developed a special material resistant to the temperatures
which reach 1000 degrees C.
The 2007 911 Turbo has two transmission options - a 6 speed
manual or Porsche’s advanced 5 speed Tiptronic S automatic
transmission, which returns quicker acceleration times than
the manual box.
The Tiptronic S transmission brings the 0-60 mph time (0-100
kmh) down to a mere 3.4 seconds, with 99 mph (160 kmh)
showing up in 7.8 seconds. Top speed with either
transmission is 193 mph (around 320 kmh).
While the original Turbo was rear wheel drive, this new
model is all wheel drive. Previously I have been
disappointed with the Porsche 4WD 911’s, with chronic
understeer occurring as the better biting rear pushed the
front outwards, but the new system has apparently fixed all
that. Controlled by Porsche Traction Management (PTM), the
system can direct as much as 100 percent of available power
to front or rear wheels via an electromagnetically
controlled multiple-plate clutch. The PTM can respond to
changes in power, steering input and road conditions in less
than 100 milliseconds, adjusting power to the front or rear
axle so quickly that the driver is barely aware of the
The 911 Turbo also has Porsche’s Active Suspension
Management (PASM) producing continuous damper adjustments
allow the driver to choose Normal mode for a more
comfortable ride or Sport mode which provides a firm,
Porsche has not been sitting on its hands over the past 32
years, and the new Turbo deserves its position as the top of
the line 911. Unfortunately, the price tag is also top of
the line. In the US it sells for around USD 130,000, but
here, if they ever bring one in, I imagine it would cost
around 30 million baht. Out of my price range, I’m afraid.
Fancy a Jag, Land Rover or an Aston Martin?
Fancy a Jag, Land Rover or an Aston
Martin? Why bother going down to the dealers, when you can
buy the whole shooting match, lock, stock and barrel. With
FoMoCo trying to extricate itself from the doggy doo that it
is in, just about everything seems to be ‘For Sale’, and
that includes some (or all) of the once proudly vaunted
Premier Automotive Group.
Aston definitely is on the block, according to Ford
chairman, Bill Ford, and I am sure the others could be too,
if someone were to offer the right money (or any money) for
some of the loss making brands.
Make no mistake, Ford has its back to the wall (as does GM,
by the way), but to its credit, FoMoCo does seem to be
reacting in a positive way, with a paring down of the
workforce in the domestic manufacturing plants, including
some closures, and hiring the ex-Boeing executive, charged
with turning around the company.
Now all they will have to do is produce some well built cars
that the buying public wants. Even in America, the Japanese
manufacturers are showing positive gains with their small,
fuel efficient vehicles, while the domestic gas guzzlers are
really going down the gurgler, and yet the Big 3 continue to
place the emphasis on these vehicles. Yet Ford has some good
small to medium sized cars, in the Focus in particular. A
strongly marketed Euro-diesel Focus could turn around the
fortunes at Ford. Let’s see what happens in 2007.