Japanese GP this weekend
One of the greatest tracks used in
Formula One today, Japan’s Suzuka circuit is a massive test
of car and driver ability. Built by Honda as a test facility
in 1962, the track was designed by Dutchman John Hugenholz,
the Hermann Tilke of his day. A huge theme park was also
constructed at the track, including the famous big wheel
which dominates the Suzuka skyline.
In 1987, having hosted various sports car and F2 races, and
having lost out initially to Fuji in the race to host the
Japanese Grand Prix, Honda’s influence finally prevailed and
the Grand Prix had a new Japanese home. And at Suzuka the
race has stayed, providing the scene for many nail-biting
end-of-season deciders, including the infamous collisions
involving Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.
Suzuka includes some of the Grand Prix calendar’s most
challenging corners. Among the drivers’ favourites are the
high-speed 130R and the famous Spoon Curve. On top of this
the circuit’s figure-of-eight layout makes it unique in
With the world championship still in the balance, this
weekend will see even more intense rivalry between Michael
Schumacher and Fernando Alonso. Even though both have 116
points, Michael is in front on a count-back of the number of
wins, having one more than Alonso.
The Japanese GP will start at noon, our time, so check your
TV feed. I will be watching at Jameson’s Irish pub (Soi AR,
next to Nova Park). Get there before noon and have lunch.
Beware of the newspapers getting the time wrong. China was
advertised as starting at 6 p.m., when it actually began at
1 p.m. Believe me, it is noon for Japan.
Natter Nosh and Noggin
The monthly car enthusiasts meeting will
be at Jameson’s Irish Pub on Soi AR next to the Nova Park
development. The car (and bike) enthusiasts meet on the
second Monday of the month, so this time it is Monday
(October 9) at Jameson’s at 7 p.m. This is a totally
informal meeting of like minded souls to discuss their pet
motoring (and motorcycling) loves and hates. Bring along any
magazines, photos of old vehicles, old girlfriends or the
latest Ferrari for us all to drive.
RBT – Is it coming?
Do you drink and drive? It might be prudent not to. Word
is about that if you are involved in an accident you
will be forced to have a breathalyzer test by the
police. The insurance companies are now also saying that
if you are found on that test to be over the legal
limit, which is 0.05 by the way, then your insurance
becomes null and void. I am also led to believe that
even as the innocent party, if you are over the limit,
your insurance is again null and void and you will have
to pay for your own repairs, or get it out of the guilty
party, which may not be all that easy.
The next step is RBT (Random Breath Testing), where you
do not need to have been involved in an accident, you
are driving along, minding your own business and just
get funneled into a holding pen, where you then get
tested. Over the limit and go straight to jail, do not
pass go, do not collect $200. However, this being
Thailand, perhaps payment of B. 200 will be enough to
get you off the hook!
Last week I mentioned the Jaguar made the Mk VII and then
the Mk VII M before the Mk VIII was released. I asked what
was the first visual clue to spot a VII M from a VII? The
answer I was looking for were indicator lights at the front
of the mudguards.
So to this week. Sticking with Jaguar, why was there no Mk
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected]
The world’s most dangerous road?
No, it’s not Sukhumvit Road, but it is in
Bolivia. A fatal accident every fortnight is not uncommon on
the Coroico road (the July disaster brought the death toll
during the previous eight months to 55) and in 1995 the
Inter-American Development Bank declared this the world’s
most dangerous road.
The only road that exists to get to the Amazon from La Paz
it is carved into the sides of a canyon. It can have
vertical drops for 500 m and has no guardrails.
Consequently, most Bolivians take the time to pray before
their descent. After all, it could be their last.
What did we learn from
the Chinese GP?
Well we learned that you never, ever write off
Michael Schumacher. After it had become obvious that the
Bridgestone runners were at a disadvantage and Renault were
dominant in the wet qualifying session, with his team radio
telling Alonso that he had pole and “poor old Michael is
only sixth”, he made Renault eat those words with a superb
race, wet and dry, making Briatore less than happy and
Alonso’s face on the podium said it all. Alonso makes a fine
winner, but not so good a loser!
in the rain
We could also see that the F1 drivers have remembered how to
pass each other! What happened to all the “dirty air”?
Raikkonen on the first lap was spectacular, three wide
around the outside of the first corner. However, yet another
engine problem prematurely ended his run. He will enjoy
Ferrari reliability in 2007.
Kubica continues to impress, even though his BMW team put
him out on dry weather tyres far too early. Next year he
will be a very good team member for BMW.
I thought the biff and barge tactics into the last corner
with Button, Barichello, Heidfeld and de la Rosa was
reminiscent of the Sydney Speedway on an amateurs night. I
have said so often, are we really seeing the best drivers in
the world? Simple answer – of course not. Sato ended up
being disqualified for his part in the schmozzle, but that
is of little recompense for Heidfeld who was knocked back to
seventh in the fracas.
I actually feel a trifle sorry for Renault in 2007.
Fisichella has passed his prime. Dithering around as to
whether he should pass Alonso at mid distance, when he was
something like three seconds a lap quicker at that point. I
don’t expect to see the Italian too often on the podium next
Webber drove a good race. Another Bridgestone runner that
was hampered by his tyres, but after Michael was the
stand-out Bridgestone driver and deserved his 8th place.
It’s a Teana?
I have been on the lookout for the new Camry
since its release a few weeks ago, and wondered why I had
not seen too many. Finally I came up behind one in the
morning traffic and my wife, who is as interested in motor
cars as I am in cold porridge sandwiches, said, “It’s the
same as the Teana!” I have to say she’s right, the two rear
ends are very similar, both with embryonic Bangle Bottoms
(which were introduced to the world in the BMW 7 Series and
progressively toned down since then).
As we came down the side of the Camry, there were more
similarities. The front wheel arch is pure new Honda Civic,
whilst the body crease from the front to the rear is Honda
Accord. Previous Camry’s looked a little more up-market at
the time of their release, but so far, this new one is
Transporting race car
The Italian Grand Prix marked the last race of
the European leg of the season, and all the teams then
headed off to Asia for China and Japan. Ever wondered what
was involved? To enable McLaren to compete in China, for
example, 33 tonnes of equipment were exported to Asia. This
included five tonnes of equipment which was sent by sea
freight, comprising screens, wiring, trolleys, generators,
and tables. This is in addition to all fuels and hazardous
consumables which are sent by sea freight, packaged in a
different container to the other items. All this fills a 40
foot sea container.
Another 27 tonnes of freight and three complete cars are
sent by air. This includes items such as spare components,
pit equipment, tool cabinets, fuel trolleys, timing stands
and radio systems.
Mercedes sent seven engines to China. Three were sent as
part of the complete cars and four spare engines were sent
out on a different airfreight. Mercedes use a 3,500 kilogram
shipping container to transport all spares, tools and
equipment for flyaway races.
Certain parts, such as gearboxes, uprights, steering racks,
dampers and front and rear wings do return to the team’s
Woking base following the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend
in order for them to be serviced.
To transport the MP4-21s the front and rear wings, steering
wheels, wing mirrors and the side deflector panels are
removed. A protective wooden floor and sides are put in
place around the cars with a bumper on the back to protect
the gearbox. There is a travel nosebox to protect the
steering rack and front of the chassis. Bespoke covers are
then put on the cars before being strapped onto
double-decker pallets and loaded onto the charter plane.
McLaren also sent around 95 people to Asia. This includes
drivers, team management, engineers, race team, marketing
All in all, a logistical nightmare.
LA Motor Show joins
Bangkok International MoShow
The American press is predicting that the LA
Motor Show is going to be a threat to the once dominant New
Year Detroit Motor Show. This December’s show is being
advertised with the theme of “A New Beginning” and has
attracted the attention of a number of automakers with Acura
(Honda), Aston Martin, BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Audi, Ford,
General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, Nissan and Volkswagen
all stating they will have production and concept world
debuts at the show.
Now what interested me was the further report that for the
first time in the LA show’s history, Los Angeles has also
received international sanctioning from the Paris-based
Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles
(OICA). The reason this caught my eye is that the Bangkok
International Motor Show has been sanctioned by OICA for
some years (I helped write the application, that’s why I
know this), putting Bangkok way in front of LA as far as
official recognition world-wide.
The international automotive trade association also
acknowledged the significance of this year’s LA Auto Show by
placing it on the international show calendar. I am so glad
they are catching up!