Honda Racing at Bira this weekend
The Honda Racing Fest returns to the Bira
circuit this weekend, with a packed table of events. On
Friday 15th is practice and qualifying with racing on
Saturday (rounds 1 and 2) and Sunday (rounds 3 and 4). The
categories being contested include the Honda Jazz (new
series) races, the Honda Civic One Make races, the Honda Pro
Cup and the Club races.
These meetings are always enjoyable, with enough close
racing in the one-make/model races to keep the spectators
amused. If you can get across the track on the overbridge,
then do so, as the best viewing spots are close to the first
and second chicanes on the back straight. Otherwise, go to
the far end of the car park on your left as you come in the
entrance, and climb up to the viewing areas for the hairpin.
The Bira circuit, named after Prince Bira, Thailand’s first
top level international sportsman (in any discipline), is on
Highway 36 after the Regents School and before the 331
Why Chrysler went bust
The writing was on the wall for Chrysler when it
was bought by bean counters. Successful car companies are
founded by auto men. Successful car companies are killed by
bean counters. Famous American race car engineer Carroll
Smith once said, “The function of a bean counter is to tell
me how many beans I have to spend – not to tell me how to
spend my beans.” Amen.
Back to Chrysler. In 1998, Daimler Benz effectively took
control of the ailing Chrysler Corporation, but America is
not Europe and the Daimler Benz people struggled with the
American unions and the American public’s rejection of large
SUVs as the price of oil went up.
In May 2007, Daimler Benz gave up, handing Chrysler to the
bean counters, called Cerberus, whose founder Stephen A.
Feinberg said he wanted to save Chrysler, one of the Big
Three of the American auto industry, not to strip it of its
assets and value. However, remember that asset-stripping is
the modus operandi of bean counter collectives.
When the dust settled, or the ink dried, Daimler Benz had
literally given Chrysler to Cerberus, as a debt free entity.
On the other page of the agreement Cerberus agreed to invest
$5.4 billion to move Chrysler onwards and upwards. But to do
all that, Cerberus needed money, which it produced by
mortgaging plants, property and anything else which had a
monetary value. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and
Goldman Sachs were the lead banks who provided the cash, but
by 2007, the writing was on the wall for the big lenders as
The thinking at Cerberus was that the auto-leasing arm of
Chrysler would be a great money spinner, after all, when had
you heard of finance companies going broke? Unfortunately,
Chrysler Financial was also borrowing to stay afloat and in
2008 needed to renew a $30 billion credit agreement, but the
banks were by then very nervous.
Chrysler Financial was able to get a credit line for $24
billion, but the terms were tough. It had to stop offering
leases on cars and trucks, and it couldn’t offer loans to
consumers with marginal credit. Now was the time for the
house of cards to collapse. Making fewer loans, it would
have a harder time raising new funds, and Chrysler’s ability
to sell vehicles would be crippled.
In August 2008, the first full month without leasing,
Chrysler’s sales fell 35 percent. One month later Lehman
Brothers collapsed and Wall Street imploded. With shaken
consumers staying away from dealerships, Chrysler cut
production, but by then it was too late and revenue went
down and Chrysler (and others) went down with it.
Cerberus tried to hand over what was left of Chrysler – but
what was left? All fixtures and fittings were already
mortgaged. GM sniffed at Chrysler but said no, they had
enough troubles of their own. Nissan/Renault sniffed and
also declined. Fiat are looking, but there is still a long
way to go before there will be a workable arrangement (it
will not be a ‘partnership’).
The US government had already loaned billions, but there was
to be a limit and Chrysler had to come to arrangements with
its lenders. The offer was 33 cents in the dollar, but not
all the lenders would agree, sending Chrysler into
bankruptcy protection at the end of April 2009.
A sad end to the Chrysler Corp., founded by Walter P.
Chrysler in 1925. He was a former star executive at GM, who
purchased the ailing Maxwell Motors and renamed it after
himself. He sold cars with touches of luxury at modest
prices, and by the mid-1930s, Chrysler was at the top of the
U.S. auto business, along with GM and Ford. Chrysler Corp.
developed the ‘hemi’ and became a dominant force in American
auto racing. Chrysler were the first of the Big Three to use
monocoque construction, now a universal engineering concept
in car building, and was once very successful, expanding to
purchase the Jeep brand. All these advances were the results
of auto men at the helm. Unfortunately it has all been
downhill since Lee Iacocca left, the last of the real auto
men at the top of Chrysler. Since then, the bean counters
have turned into death watch beetles.
Last week I mentioned muscle cars. I
asked which American muscle car went into the record books
in 1967 as the world’s fastest accelerating production car?
Hint, it did 0-96 kph in 4.2 seconds. It was the mighty
seven liter Shelby Cobra, and remember that it was a road
car and those performance figures are from 32 years ago.
So to this week. The first overland trip from the UK to
Australia by car left London 19 October 1927 and finished in
Sydney 15 July 1928. Who was it, and what car did he drive?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email [email protected]
What did we learn from
the Spanish GP?
Well, we learned (as if we didn’t know before)
that the layout of the Catalunya track produces processional
boring races, and it certainly lived up to its reputation.
After the race settled down, the order after pit stops
remained basically the same for the duration, for example,
Vettel (Red Bull) being behind Massa (Ferrari) for 99
percent of the race, only getting by when Massa ran out of
The actual racing at Catalunya was so enthralling that
viewers in Jameson’s pub descended to debating whether
facial hair was a fire hazard in an F1 driver. Hopefully
Jenson Button will get sponsorship from Braun shavers and
get rid of that wispy imitation beard. (In answer to the
question, it’s not a fire hazard as the driver wears a
Top marks to Ross Brawn and his Brawn GP team, providing yet
another dominant performance, and cleverly putting the two
drivers on different strategies, almost like putting money
on all the horses in the race. And it worked with another
1-2, though Barichello was unhappy that Button was the 1 and
he was the 2.
We also saw that the reason for the Ferrari dominance in the
past was in no small way because of strategist Ross Brawn.
It was in the Brawn years that Ferrari was the top team.
Compare that to now, where Raikkonen did not even make it to
Q2. Raikkonen saying, “We made a stupid mistake. I didn’t
get any particularly good laps on my only run in Q1, but we
thought my best time would be enough to make it to Q2 and so
I stayed in the garage.” It was obvious to anyone watching
the televised Qualifying that Raikkonen’s time had him in
the relegation zone. It’s about time the Finn started
reading this column, in which I suggested that leaving it
all to one run was dead set dozy. However, it didn’t really
mean much when he broke down, yet again. Raikkonen, being
the master of the one-liners, saying “The car is better, but
we must fix these reliability problems.” Unfortunately, he
has much to worry about, with team boss Stefano Domenicali
saying. “We must all react to get back to our usual
standard.” And what pray tell, is that standard right now?
Red Bull continue to impress, and Webber drove well to claim
the last rung of the podium, finishing ahead of Vettel, der
McLaren continue going from hero to zero, with 9th the best
that (current world champion, remember) Lewis Hamilton could
do. Kovalainen continues to seal his eventual fate of a DCM
(Don’t Come Monday) with another woeful substandard
Renault? Good drive by the sulky Spaniard and for once
Piquet Jnr finished a race. Nowhere near the points, but did
finish. That’s a plus for the repair team.
The FIA’s budget cap regulations for 2010 has certainly
caused a major fracas in the teams, as undoubtedly it will
lead to two categories of car in the one race (“budget
capped” and “open”). Ferrari is making withdrawal noises,
and now Toyota threatens to pull out. “Under the rules as
they are published, we cannot submit an entry (for 2010),”
Toyota President John Howett has said. Pressed to clarify
whether Toyota will lodge their entry for next year’s
Championship by the May 29 deadline, Howett said, “I would
say it is very likely we won’t enter unless something
changes significantly.” This has given the loss-making
Toyota company the ideal face-saving way to bow out from the
sport. You can expect BMW to be next. You read it here
Chance of a lifetime
for future stars?
Formula BMW Pacific has announced details of its
driver evaluation and Scholarship Trials for the 2010
season. From September 1 – 2, 2009, at Malaysia’s Sepang
International Circuit, young karters from across the region
are invited to take part in a professional training and
assessment program organized by BMW Motorsport.
A number of Formula BMW Pacific scholarships will be
offered, which includes a 50,000 euro contribution towards a
full season in Formula BMW Pacific, plus free enrolment in
the Education and Training program.
Drivers aged between 16-21 who have not previously
participated in any international race series and no more
than 10 national meetings, are eligible to compete for a
scholarship. However, the trial, which gives all young
drivers an important assessment and driver training from BMW
Motorsport professionals, is open to all.
An early-bird registration fee of 2,600 euro, which covers
the cost of everything except transportation and
accommodation, is available until July 1, after which the
cost is 2,900 euro. For entry forms and information on
scholarship eligibility, potential applicants should contact
Formula BMW Pacific Series Manager Mark Turner
([email protected] formulabmw.com).
Toyota’s new Head of
One of the Toyota people movers for sale in the
grey market was designed in Thailand. Please look at the
finished product ‘in the metal’ and look at the design
penned by my three and a half year old son. We await
royalties from Toyota Motor in Japan!