Pattaya Mail Web

AUTO MANIA

by Dr. Iain Corness
 

What did we learn from Bahrain?

First off, I shall refrain from commenting on the indiscretions of the boss of the FIA, Max Mosley. What he does in his own time does not have a great bearing on whether he is capable of running the FIA. I get more than the sneaking feeling that Mosley was set up, and undoubtedly he has made enemies over the past decade of his dominance at the FIA, but I don’t think Ron Dennis is involved!
So to the race.
Well, we learned that BMW has certainly arrived with Kubica on pole after Qualifying. (I shall refrain from writing “a drive with polish gets a pole for a Pole” as I am sure every hack writer in the world will have pushed this pun to the max. However, for Pattaya we could probably use “Pole dancers ecstatic over Pole’s pole position!”)
Despite his pole position, Kubica’s lead lasted about three milliseconds, as Massa just drove straight past him, followed very shortly afterwards by his Ferrari team mate Raikkonen. From then on it was Ferrari’s day, with Massa never putting a wheel wrong and putting all his critics to shame with a flawless drive to win convincingly. However, just as one swallow doesn’t make a summer, we shall continue to watch the diminutive Brazilian with interest.
British hero, Lewis Hamilton, certainly had a day to forget. Cocked it up at the start and fell back to 11th and then ran into the back of Fernando Alonso and took his nose off. The British commentators immediately screamed that Alonso had ‘brake tested’ Hamilton, though Hamilton himself put it down to a racing incident. Commentator James Allen did all but accuse the sulky Spaniard of reversing into Hamilton! Personally I believe Alonso was blocking and just didn’t accelerate as quickly as he could have. But we’ll never know. Hamilton was philosophical, saying, “I have had such a good run in Formula 1 until now, and it was almost inevitable that at some point things would go wrong. However there is a long way to go in the Championship and I intend to win it.” Kovalainen in the second McLaren-Mercedes came fifth, but other than a fastest lap did not impress or show any fire.
Down the back in the Toro Rosso, the much vaunted Vettel seems to be losing the scrap with team mate Bourdais. Outqualified and failing to finish (again). The mild mannered Frenchman Bourdais may be one to watch.
Toyota is coming good. After around six years, the auto giant has begun to make an impression on the top half of the grid, with Trulli finishing a strong 6th. Glock does not seem to perform to the same standard, but at least he did not crash this time, so he is not reading from Ralf’s notes from 2007.
Red Bull’s David Coulthard has become a bit of a charging bull, once again involved in an overtaking mis-movement, this time with Jenson Button. Button accused the veteran Scotsman of moving over in the braking area, and from my seat in front of the Jameson’s big screen telly, I would have to agree. I really begin to question Coulthard’s lateral vision, as he has been involved in too many of these cornering tangles. Fortunately for Red Bull, Webber is doing a consistent job, and so far has scored all the points for the team. This would have to be Coulthard’s swan song year, surely.
Williams had another undistinguished day, with Rosberg at least gaining one point for 8th. Kamikaze Nakajima managed to spin all on his own and then spent the race down the back somewhere with (not so) Super Aguri and the mobile Indian tailors.
All in all, a rather dull race for the spectators. Let us hope the Spanish GP is better. At least the crowd will get excited over the sulky home-boy.


More on the Motor Show

After spending two days at the Bangkok International Motor Show, I came away with the decided impression that we are going through economic woes. The ultimate top end vehicle manufacturers were missing (Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and the like) and the greatest interest seemed to be in the budget end transport, such as the Naza Forza which was on the stand at 349,000 baht and can be purchased by drip-feed down to something over B. 4,000 per month.

Naza Forza/Sutera

This car was reviewed in its (almost) native Malaysia by our ‘editor at large’ John Weinthal, and he had this to say about the Forza (Sutera in Malaysia), which is a Chinese Malay auto. Naza struck a deal with the Chinese whereby they have exclusive manufacturing and distribution rights to all right hand drive territories.
Thailand was also a target and Naza intends to export 60 percent of its output within four years. This year’s figure will be about 5,000.
OK, so what’s this Sutera (Forza) like? In brief it represents probably the best value wheels in Malaysia (and now in Thailand).
It is economical, equipped beyond reasonable expectation, efficient and a very easy drive. Of course it is no tearaway, nor perhaps does it achieve Toyota, or even Hyundai, quality levels. Yet!
My assessment comes after a week and some 500 km in a base GS model which never put a wheel wrong or made any off-note noises or rattles. Of course, as ever, we will have to await proof of long term reliability and build quality, but the omens are fine.
Lasting memories include a bright spacious-looking interior, fine output quality from a four speaker/two tweeter sound system with MP3 compatible CD player and more than adequate storage spaces – but, above all, was the Sutera’s (Forza’s) amazing ability to utilize the powerplant’s 88 Nm of torque which is available between 2500-3000 rpm.
Allied to spot-on gear ratios this car is fine in the confines of a condo car park, the city crawl and within the natural limits of 65 bhp, even cruising at up to around 110 kph. Gear changing in all these situations is remarkably less than is the norm with such small cars. Indeed another 10-20 kph is there if you must. I’d suggest you don’t.
Another pleasant surprise was the almost total absence of wind roar or drumming even with the power front windows open.
Remote central locking, five height-adjustable head restraints, child-proof rear door locks, heated rear window with wiper, split-fold rear seats and even the clear red-lit instrument lighting and excellent front mounted map reading lamp all add to the Sutera’s (Forza’s) overall appeal.
The power steering is light but not very communicative, the gear change is woolly and the car can feel somewhat floaty on open freeways above around 90kph.
So that’s it. Nothing exotic, little excitement but a jolly easy drive and thoroughly ownable first (or last) car.
That report is, of course, from the Malaysian spec Naza Sutera, and there may be some differences from the Thailand import, but at the price, this car has to be worth a long hard look.


Autotrivia Quiz
Last week I asked which F1 world champion began his racing career in a DKW in 1956? It was Jimmy Clark in Duns in Scotland.
So to this week. Who was the first to construct and race a Grand Prix car bearing his own name? And it was not Jack Brabham!
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Jungle Adventures outside Pattaya
I was lucky to be invited on a Jungle Adventure by the EasyKart people (www. easykart.net). This is an organized two hour tour through the Pattaya hinterland on personal off-road transport and was certainly a fun couple of hours.

Jungle Adventure

The vehicles are either ATVs (sometimes called “quads”) or buggies. The ATVs carry one person only, while the buggy will take two, and both are automatics. Easy to drive/ride and both very safe. In fact ‘safety’ was an important factor in the tour, with basic training and briefing being part of the package. You are also fully equipped with crash helmet, goggles, mask and gloves and a bright orange T-shirt. I also found that it would have been better to have worn a long-sleeved shirt as the sun in the afternoon was fairly relentless. Take my tip. Also jeans and sports shoes – no Japanese safety boots (flip-flops)!
The scrub and fields out from the Bira Kart circuit offer wonderful terrain, with creeks, fire-trails, hills, jumps and flat out sandy curves, enough to give any novice adventurer two hours of fun.
It is not, however, a race or rally, but you go as a group with a leader at the front and a sweeper at the back. The speeds are enough for everyone, and the experience is exhilarating. And fun. They do stop to let you get your breath back and supply refreshments on the trail as well.
EasyKart will pick you up from the Bali Hai Plaza with a free shuttle bus in time for the three trips each day at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. but I do recommend you book as these adventure tours have become very popular. Go to [email protected] or ring 02 203 1205-7 or 086 028 0880. The cost is very reasonable for two hours of fun, being B. 2,300 for an ATV, B. 3,600 for a buggy (driver) and B. 1,000 for the passenger.


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 (April 14) 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. Many interesting debates come from these evenings, including quite a few topics for the Autotrivia quiz. We will also be discussing the Bangkok International Motor Show.



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