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
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
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
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,
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
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.
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
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
Last week I asked which F1 world champion began his
racing career in a DKW in 1956? It was Jimmy Clark in Duns
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
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected]
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
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
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.