Hungarian GP this weekend


Hot on the heels of the German GP, the next is the Hungarian GP. As a racing venue, Hungary has a long history, with its first GP run in 1906, and regular events in Budapest since 1926.  Built with state backing, and laid out in a natural amphitheater, the Hungaroring opened in 1986 and attracted an estimated 200,000 spectators.

Though the event was well organized, and the hosts very appreciative, it was felt that the 4km Hungaroring had been laid out more in the style of a twisty street circuit rather than a bespoke road track.  There were few opportunities for overtaking, though things were eased from 1989 when a tight corner was by-passed and the lap distance became slightly less than 4km.

However, it remains a circuit that is not high on any of the drivers’ lists, unless you are after a piece of quick action behind the pits, as the Hungarian government actually erected (nice word in the sex scene) some mobile brothels a few years ago (sponsored by Viagra?).  I think they are still in use today!

After the British and German GPs, will we get the same sort of racing?  Find out this weekend.

We watch from Fletchers Folly these days, where you will find Kim and Goy Fletcher. It’s located on Siam Country Club Road, opposite Maxxis Tyres and 300 meters before the Mitkamol (Chicken) intersection. We get there early around 7 p.m. and have something to eat and wet the whistle before the racing begins at 8 p.m., while watching the HD channel, which is so much sharper than the others.  Why don’t you join me at around 7 p.m. for a natter and some food and amber liquids and then sit down for the Grand Prix.


Corvette goes mid-engine for first time to raise performance

Tom Krisher

Corvette C8
Corvette C8

Warren, Michigan. (AP) — When you first lay eyes on the new 2020 Corvette, a modern version of the classic American sports car isn’t the first thing that pops into your head.

Instead, you think Lamborghini, Lotus, McLaren.

The eighth-generation ‘Vette, dubbed C8, is radically different from its predecessors, which for 66 years had the engine in the front. This time, engineers moved the General Motors’ trademark small-block V8 behind the passenger compartment. It’s so close to the driver that the belt running the water pump and other accessories is only a foot away.

Also gone are the traditional long hood and large, sweeping front fenders, replaced by a downward-sloping snub nose and short fenders. In the back, there’s a big, tapered hatch that opens to a small trunk and the low-sitting all-new 6.2-liter, 495 horsepower engine.

So why change the thing?

“We were reaching the performance limitations of a front-engine car,” explained Tadge Juechter, the Corvette’s chief engineer, ahead of a glitzy unveiling in a World War II dirigible hangar in Orange County, California.

With a mid-engine, the flagship of GM’s Chevrolet brand will have the weight balance and center of gravity of a race car, rivaling European competitors and leaving behind sports sedans and ever-more-powerful muscle cars that were getting close to outperforming the current ‘Vette.

“We’re asking people to spend a lot of money for this car, and people want it to be the best performer all around,” Juechter said.

GM President Mark Reuss said the C8 will start below US$60,000, 7 percent more than the current Corvette’s base price of US$55,900. Prices of other versions weren’t announced but the current car can run well over US$100,000 with options, still thousands cheaper most than European competitors.

GM says the new version, with an optional ZR1 performance package, will go from zero to 60 mph (96.6 kilometers per hour) in under three seconds, the fastest Corvette ever and about a full second quicker than all but one high-performance version of the outgoing Vette.

The “cab forward” design with a short hood looks way different, but GM executives say they aren’t worried that it will alienate Corvette purists who want the classic long hood and the big V8 in the front.

Harlan Charles, the car’s marketing manager, said mid-engine Corvettes had for years been rumored to be the next generation so it wasn’t unexpected. GM also is hoping the change will help draw in younger buyers who may not have considered a Corvette in the past.

George Borke, a member of Village Vettes Corvette Club in The Villages, Florida, a huge retirement community, said he hasn’t heard anyone in the 425-member club complain about the new design. “I think after 60 years it’s time for a change,” said Borke, who owns a current generation “C7,” bought when the car was last redesigned in the 2014 model year.

The new car has two trunks, one in the front that can hold an airline-spec carry-on bag and a laptop computer case.  Under the rear hatch behind the engine is another space that can hold two sets of golf clubs.

Even though it’s a performance car, Juechter said the Corvette can go from eight cylinders to four to save fuel. Some owners get close to 30 mpg on the freeway with the current model, and Juechter said he expects that to be true with the new one. Full mileage tests aren’t finished, he said.

Engineers also took great pains to make the new car quiet on the highway, with heat shields and ample insulation to cut engine noise.

Even though the car has an aluminum center structure and a carbon fiber bumper beam, it still weighs a little more than the current model.  It’s also slightly less aerodynamic due to large air intake vents on the sides to help cool the engine. The new Corvette comes with a custom-designed fast-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission with two tall top gears. It also will be made with right-hand-drive for international markets.

Higher-performance versions are coming, although Juechter wouldn’t say if the C8 is designed to hold a battery and electric motor.


What did we learn from the German GP?

Well, we learned that it rains in Germany. We also saw that a cool head and treading carefully pays off in those slippery situations and can produce some unexpected results.

The race started on a wet track, and the 20 cars managed to avoid one another through the first corner. That on its own was rather amazing, especially as Verstappen (Red Bull) fluffed his start and lost several places, while the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Bottas then took up their customary 1-2 at the head of the train. At that early stage, groans were heard all round.

With the rain alternating in intensity, the pit managers then struggled between wets, intermediates and dry’s. None of the tyre combinations really suited the circuit, as parts of the track were wet, and other parts on the same lap were dry. This led to the downfall of Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), Bottas (Mercedes) who had just inherited the lead, to crash with a clear track ahead of him, Hulkenberg (Renault), Sainz (McLaren) and Hamilton (Mercedes). Daniel Ricciardo had another Renault engine turn into a hand grenade, but he was very used to that from the last 12 months of disasters with the French engine, he is now a fluent Francophone with “Merde” and “Sacre bleu”.

In the middle of all the crashes, spins, safety cars and virtual safety cars there were some excellent drives. Vettel came from 20th and last to end up second; Albon (Toro Rosso) up as high as fourth in his rookie year and first time in the wet and even challenging Hamilton. Lance Stroll was up to 4th at one stage (Yes, THAT Lance Stroll of “Buy me a race team Daddy”) and Robert (One Wing) Kubica (Williams) being credited with 10th place and a point after all the stewards had finished handing out time penalties and the finishers bonus.

The final words from the podium:

Verstappen (First): “It was amazing to win, it was really tricky out there to make the right calls, you had to be focused.  I made a nice 360, I enjoyed that. It was about trying to not make too many mistakes. You learn over the years I’m very happy with the result.”

Vettel (Second): “It was a long race at some stage it felt never ending. It was great fun, it was tough with the conditions and tough to read what was the smartest move. Before the last safety car it was straight-forward, I was fast and could time it right and people were being cautious into the first corner and I had DRS and I could get the moves in the back straight.”

Kvyat (Third): “It was amazing to be back on the podium.  Incredible with Toro Rosso to bring a podium back to the team is amazing. I’m really happy. It was a horror movie with a black comedy. At some point I thought the race was done, but it was incredible, a rollercoaster, just like my career.”

So there you are – The answer to the F1 boredom is obviously a wet track!


Police stop 4 kids who drove SUV 600 miles down Aussie coast

Rod McGuirk

Canberra, Australia (AP) — Four children aged 10 to 14 packed fishing rods in a parent’s SUV, left a farewell note then drove more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) down the Australian east coast before they were stopped by police the next day after two fuel thefts and one aborted pursuit, officers said.

When the children were stopped by police near Grafton in New South Wales state, they locked the doors and refused to get out, Acting Police Inspector Darren Williams said.

A police officer used a baton to break a window of the 2004 Nissan Patrol, which had been reported stolen by worried parents, Williams said.

Police were not sure which child or children drove or why they left Rockhampton in Queensland state. The children are a 14-year-old boy, two 13-year-old boys and a 10-year-old girl.

Williams said they possibly shared the driving.

“It’s a long way and I couldn’t imagine one person actually driving all that way in two days,” Williams told reporters.

The children are suspected of failing to pay for fuel at Outback gas stations in the Queensland town of Banana and the New South Wales town of Warialda, police said.

They were also chased by police in the New South Wales town of Glen Innes, where a 13-year-old was suspected to be driving, Williams said.

“There was a short pursuit up there with the Highway Patrol and due to the age of the driver and the road conditions, that was terminated by the Highway Patrol officers … and the general duties police that were involved,” he said.