British GP at
Silverstone this weekend
The British GP is on this weekend at the
famous Silverstone circuit. This was actually the venue for
the first World Championship F1 Grand Prix which was held on
May 13, 1950 with the British Royal family in attendance.
history of the circuit is one of continuing development.
During WW II Silverstone was a bomber station and it was
pressed into service as a motor racing circuit in 1948. The
three pre-war British circuits, Brooklands, Donington Park
and Crystal Palace were all out of commission and
ex-military airfields offered ready-made road surfaces,
other basic facilities such as primitive toilets, and they
were usually a long way from densely populated areas.
In 1950 came a layout which was unchanged for many years. An
additional corner, Bridge Bend, was added just before
Woodcote for 1987, and the chicane was removed. This altered
the length to 2.969 miles. A major revision of the layout
was undertaken for 1991 which tamed the awesomely fast
Maggotts curve and Stowe and Club corner and added a
sequence of bends prior to Woodcote. These revisions
increased the length to 3.247 miles and remained in force
until 1995 when further details were made which decreased
the overall length of a lap by a few yards leaving it at
The race should begin at 1 p.m. British time, which is (I
believe) 7 p.m. here, but check your local TV feed.
We watch at Jameson’s Irish Pub where we get Martin Brundle
as an informed commentator on the South African Sports
Channel feed, so we do not have to listen to the prattle
from the UBC talking heads (although I am told that UBC is
no longer telecasting the F1 races), nor do we get the
breaks for adverts. Join me at around 5.30 p.m. for a bite
to eat (carvery is good value) and something to wet the
whistle, and then settle down for the race.
Last week I asked what brand of electric
car did Thomas Edison drive? It wasn’t an Edison, it was a
By the way, a couple of weeks ago I asked about retractable
headlights, and Jerry Coffey sent the following email:
I believe the 1936 Cord was the first car with disappearing
headlamps. They did it right with a hand crank and the far
right and left hand sides of the dashboard. (One for each
headlight ... no electronics or fancy motors to fail). The
1936/7 Cord 810 and 812’s were designed by Gordon Buerhig.
His small design office is preserved on the second floor of
the building housing the A C D Museum. The two storey brick
building has the original Art Deco showroom on the ground
floor. Behind it was the Auburn factory. (The Cords were
made in Connersville, Indiana and the Duesenberg chassis
came from Indianapolis, Indiana). It is a treat to see, if
you are ever in Auburn, Indiana over Labor Day Weekend, when
they have the annual A C D Festival. In 1938 GM built an
advanced Buick called the Y JOB. It was a one off show car
which also had disappearing headlamps. In 1941 Chrysler
built a couple Newport show cars also with disappearing
headlamps. The following year, Chrysler introduced its 1942
DeSoto with disappearing headlights. When DeSoto resumed
production after the war in 1946, disappearing headlights
disappeared and were not seen again on an American car until
the 1966 front wheel drive Toronado which was declared
Thanks Jerry for that bit of autotrivia. Well done!
So to this week. The London to Sydney marathon in 1968 was
given much publicity, but who was the first from London to
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected]
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 (July 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 Spyker road car (or an AMG
Mercedes, or just bring a photo) for us all to go Ooh over.
There are a number of collectible cars in the glass showroom
on Sukhumvit Road. Perhaps we should visit with a brick
while someone causes a diversion?
The origin of the name
After my claiming that there must be a department in
Volkswagen dedicated to silly names, regular reader Peter
Wehrli advised me of the real origin of the name “Tiguan”.
Apparently the German public was invited to write in and
vote for various names and “Tiguan” got the nod. Apparently
it is supposed to be the combination of Tiger and Iguana,
and whoever dreamed that one up has a very inventive mind.
The mating ritual must have been fairly interesting! Thanks,
A Class Benz for
A Class Benz?
Spotted the most amazing “A Class” Benz the other afternoon.
There it was, brilliant red color, but as I went past in the
traffic, there was something wrong. The shape was not
totally right - and then there was the small fact that there
was only one wheel at the front. This was certainly no
vehicle made by Daimler-Benz, though it should be remembered
that Karl Benz’s first car was a three wheeler in 1886, and
they did build another strange three wheeled beast called
the Life-Jet 300 in 1997, just in time for the economic
crash, so sales were poor.
It turned out that this three wheeler was called a Trident
320 electric, and was an imported Chinese city car. Complete
with four doors, this vehicle would do 60 kph and had a
range of 80 km before needing another eight hour charge. You
can also get it in a gasoline powered version, returning 3.5
liters per 100 km. You can find out more on the Trident
through Tirachart Charuvastra, telephone 081 410 0155, or
What did we learn from the French GP?
Well, we learned that Ferrari is back. With a
vengeance. And the wheels appear to have fallen off the
McLaren juggernaut. A very convincing Ferrari 1-2, with Kimi
Raikkonen on the top step of the podium, while Felipe Massa
spent that last 20 laps trying to work out how he went from
a secure first to an equally as secure second. Massa’s race
was compromised by slow ‘in’ and ‘out’ laps, occasioned by
catching traffic, while Raikkonen put in a couple of
blinders to take the lead after the final pit stop.
Mum, I’ve caught a python!
For McLaren Mercedes it was the end of the 2007 season
euphoria. Gremlins in qualifying saw a bearing freeze in
Alonso’s gearbox (or perhaps it was a deliberate
anti-Spanish plot, Fernando?) and the current world champion
had to start from 10th slot on the grid. Both Hamilton and
Alonso were fuelled light for qualifying, so McLaren knew
they did not have the speed of the Ferrari’s and were trying
to counteract for this. But to no avail. When Raikkonen
could out-accelerate Hamilton to get into second place at
the start, the race was over for McLaren. From then on, all
that could be done was for Hamilton to maintain position;
however, a very strange strategy which saw Hamilton three
stopping completely sealed off any chance of mounting a
challenge to the Ferrari’s.
We did learn that Alonso still has plenty of tiger in him,
but whilst he attempted many overtaking maneuvers, he could
only make one of them stick. And then after the final round
of pit stops, he found himself back where he started. Not a
good weekend for the Spaniard.
BMW continue their strong performances, with Robert Kubica
an untroubled 4th, finishing where he started on the grid.
He definitely outshone Heidfeld, who apparently has a bad
back. He had better get his doctor’s certificate ready, or
BMW’s Dr Mario Theissen will be giving him a rather
different sort of certificate, taking his name off the
locker and writing “S. Vettel” in his place.
Ralf Schumacher (Toyota) had a brilliant weekend. He did not
hit anybody, and finished in front of his team mate, even
though he qualified behind him. However, this was because
his team mate went out on the first lap fracas! 2007 will be
Ralf’s swansong, and he is driving as if he knows it
already. The smart money in the pits is that Adrian Sutil
will be in the Toyota next year.
Albers in the Spyker is really sealing his fate, driving off
still attached to the refueling rig.
Is this what you could describe as being ‘pumped up’? This
was totally his fault, which he admitted afterwards, and he
was lapping one second a lap slower than his team mate up to
that point. Spyker should replace him before he pulls off
another hose. I’m sure they are expensive.
Alexander Wurz? What can you say about this Williams driver
that we don’t know already? He is just too slow. And proves
this every meeting. Seems a very nice chap, but you don’t
win races by being ‘nice’. Michael Schumacher proved this
for many years. Don’t bother with a Wurz-Williams 2008
Some days I feel sorry for Renault’s silver fox Briatore. He
has to keep Renault boss Carlos Ghosn happy, with a team
that is a mere shadow of itself of the previous two seasons.
Fisichella is trying hard to the best of his ability, but
even last year he showed that he was not the match of
Alonso. He is now a year older and even less likely to
improve. Young hopeful Kovalainen is not coming up with the
goods (at least half a second slower than Fisi), so Briatore
has two second or third string drivers competing in the top
formula. Unless Renault has very deep pockets and is able to
buy some driver talent for 2008, I would not be surprised to
see Ghosn pull the plug on their F1 team. A struggling
automaker does not need a struggling race team.
So Honda finally managed to score a point following Button’s
eighth place, and the Brackley boys have gone back to the UK
shaking hands with themselves. If they think Honda-san will
be happy with that, they should think again. One of the best
funded teams and quite frankly just also-rans this year.
Ritual hara-kiri is coming. Believe me!
Anthony Davidson, once hailed as the new white hope, is not
living up to the promise he showed as a Honda reserve
driver. He has been involved in too many incidents, and the
French GP error on the first corner was an elementary
mistake. Anthony, write out 500 times “You do not win races
at the first corner - you only lose races at the first
corner!” Unless Davidson has a wealthy backer, expect to see
a Japanese driver as number 2 to Sato next season.