The Eagle has landed
On July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil
Armstrong uttered the fateful words “The Eagle has landed”
when the lunar space craft touched down on the surface of
the moon. However, before that, the name ‘eagle’ had been
used many times and is very well remembered for Dan Gurney’s
F1 Eagles beginning in 1966.
In July 2008, the Eagle name has been resurrected for the
new 2+2 sportscar from the Lotus group. It had its world
debut at the British Motor show in London on July 22nd, the
first all-new car from Lotus since the Lotus Elise in 1995,
and will enter the sportscar market as the only mid-engined
2+2 in production.
In typical Lotus fashion, the new car employs lightweight
materials, such as an aluminium chassis in the construction,
giving much better than average performance from its
Toyota-sourced V6 engine. Zero to 100 kph is reported as
being under five seconds and top speed of over 250 kph.
Eagle’s tail feathers
It certainly is a dramatic looking vehicle, but when you
read a little further through the specifications of the 2+2,
you find that the rear seats of 2+2 are intended for
children or smaller adults on short journeys. It’s back to
two adults and two legless midgets, I’m afraid. The press
release, which must have been written by a comedian, states
“When unoccupied, the rear seats provide a convenient
stowage area for briefcases and jackets, adding to Project
Eagle’s appeal as an everyday car.” They have to be joking,
store anything on the rear seat of a 2+2 and it is in the
dashboard first time you apply the brakes while playing
Lewis Hamiltons on your local street.
The interior is not as Spartan as previous Lotus models and
boasts a ‘do everything other than make your breakfast’
SATNAV plus tricky audio system and on-board tyre pressure
monitoring. A module in the headlining will accommodate
automatic garage and gate opening remote controls. Bluetooth
is mandatory these days, as is the iPod.
Deliveries of the Eagle will begin in Spring 2009, and with
only 2000 of the hand crafted cars planned each year.
What did we learn from
the German GP?
Well, we learned that Lewis Hamilton has a vacuum
cleaner in the nose of his McLaren Mercedes that sucks up
the “dirty air” so well that he doesn’t notice it when
passing other cars. It is time the commentators and the
other drivers stopped using the so-called “dirty air” as an
excuse. Hamilton drove superbly and was head and shoulders
above all the other drivers and won despite the safety car
and a rather strange strategy from the McLaren pit wall
In case you have been similarly sucked in that Hamilton won
because his car was faster than the others, here is the
table of fastest laps:
1 N. Heidfeld (BMW) 1:15.987
2 L. Hamilton (McLaren) 1:16.039
3 K. Raikkonen (Ferrari) 1:16.342
4 H. Kovalainen (McLaren) 1:16.495
5 F. Massa (Ferrari) 1:16.502
6 R. Kubica (BMW) 1:16.610
7 T. Glock (Toyota) 1:16.712
8 S. Vettel (Toro Rosso) 1:16.772
9 N. Piquet (Renault) 1:16.910
10 S. Bourdais (Toro Rosso) 1:16.969
Hamilton’s car was not appreciably faster than the others,
it was simply the fact that Hamilton could keep up the lap
times for 67 laps that brought him the victory.
We also learned that the use of safety cars can certainly
produce some strange results, such as Piquet (Renault)
coming second. A clear case of being in the right place at
the right time. “I got quite lucky, but I was on the perfect
strategy and the team called me in at the right time,” he
said. Piquet has been under pressure to perform, but the
second place at Hockenheim has not changed anything. Piquet
fell in a sewer and came up covered in jam. Let us see if he
is just as lucky in Hungary. His team mate, the sulky
Spaniard, gets more and more ragged when placed in pressure
situations. He is not worth the money.
Ferrari? Looks like they should be preparing for Alonso to
come and take Raikkonen’s seat in 2009. Kimi had no fire, no
interest and no performance. I think he has mentally retired
already (as he has been threatening to do). Massa was
(almost) as lack-luster but scraped in for third.
After Hamilton, the other star of the meeting was Sebastian
Vettel in the Toro Rosso. Driving way above the performance
of his car all weekend and deserved the eighth place. In a
Red Bull next year he will be even better. His team mate
Bourdais in his Roaring Tosser was as usual nowhere, which
is where the Frenchman will be next year. Nowhere.
BMW was something of a damp squib all weekend. Kubica was
far from being the driver he was in Montreal for his maiden
win, whilst Heidfeld was another of the ‘lucky’ drivers
after the safety car lottery, ending up finishing in front
of his team mate.
Glock had another monumental crash after the right rear
suspension failure as he half lost it driving over the kerb.
However, by the time he finally stopped there was little of
his Toyota left. Disappointing for the Japanese giant as
they were starting to show some results this year.
Red Bull’s MD claimed that “Webber picked up some debris
which damaged the oil cooler!” From where I was sitting in
Jameson’s Irish Pub, watching the smoke coming from the
right hand bank of the V8, it was a bit more than a
debris-damaged oil cooler. Perhaps the conrod hit it? With
Coulthard retiring at the end of the year we will no longer
be able to run bets on whom he will hit at the next meeting.
I think he has lost all lateral vision.
My Earth Dream continues to be My Earth Nightmare and both
the Honda drivers seem to have mentally given up with this
year’s car, just as they did with last year’s car. Perhaps
they could buy Glock’s wreck and see if they can build a
At this stage in the championship it looks as if Lewis
Hamilton can win it, provided McLaren doesn’t lose it for
Last week I asked you to take a good
close look at this photograph. I asked what is this car, and
why does it look so strange? Look carefully and you will see
that the car has been built sideways across the chassis of a
1940’s Mercedes, so the wheels are pointing north-south
while the body is pointing east-west. It is reminiscent of
the drawings done by M.C. Escher. Many thanks to Jerry
Coffey for sending this to me.
So to this week, and something more normal. I mentioned
Lotus above, so let’s continue in that vein. The Lotus 14
was released at the London Motor Show in 1957 and was called
the Lotus Elite. A beautifully smooth design, it was the
world’s first fiberglass monocoque. Colin Chapman’s
accountant was very much involved with this car. What was
his name, and what part did he have to play?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected]
AFOS at Bira in August
Advance notice: the Asian Festival of Speed will
be running at Bira International circuit on August 16/17.
This is our opportunity to see cars and drivers from other
Asian countries and see how our local drivers compare. The
AFOS program will also have the Thailand Supercar events, so
it should be a very full weekend of motorsport. More
information closer to the event.
Motorcycles make a
I recently attended a motorcycle racing meeting
at the Bira International Circuit in Thailand, promoted by
Grand Prix International (GPI), and I was immediately taken
by the different classes racing that weekend. Everything
from small step-throughs to 1000 cc big bikes. The riders
also covered everyone from ultra-competitive eight year olds
to semi-retired Americans racing 600’s for fun.
Kubo on the grid (Photo by Alan Coates)
This was also a very special meeting, according to Anothai
Eamlumnow from Grand Prix International, as it has been 20
years since they last promoted the motorcycle racing. To
mark the event, and its importance, the president of GPI Dr.
Prachin Eamlumnow and the newly elected mayor of Pattaya
Itthipol Khunplome were in attendance at the grand opening
on the Sunday of the two day meeting.
Two riders stood out from the meeting as future champions.
Kemin Kubo was eight years old and Kiettisak Chuaywiset was
nine. Both were riding Honda Click Super Star step-throughs
and both were very small. So small in fact that when lined
up on the grid they could not remain seated on the saddle,
but had to slip off and literally stand on one leg beside
the motorcycle! But what is more, both of the boys rode like
champions, hanging off the side of the bike like any
Valentino Rossi would do.
at speed (Photo by Alan Coates)
The other item which stood out in my mind was the fact that
there were complete grids made up of small Yamahas and small
Hondas. Ideal one-make one-model categories that look
affordable, present ideal training grounds for future
champions, and results will soon show those who have the
talent to make it further up the tree towards Moto-GP.
Another thought to ponder is the fact that in two wheeled
racing, you can buy performance, but you cannot buy results.
You could put me on a 125 Moto-GP Repsol Honda and I would
come last. And so would you! However, I am confident that I
could run a Formula BMW race car and still be mid-field,
even at my age. Motorcycles are great levellers.