by Dr. Iain Corness

Japanese GP this weekend

Suzuka circuit.

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 Formula One.
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!

Autotrivia Quiz
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 IV?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!

The world’s most dangerous road?

Dangerous curves ahead.

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!

Alonso 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 year.
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 disappointing.

Nissan Teana

Transporting race car teams
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 and catering.
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!