Final GP this weekend
The final GP of the 2007 season is being held at the
Interlagos circuit in Brazil this weekend. It is the
culmination of one of the stormiest seasons in F1, with
either of three drivers able to claim the World Drivers
Championship by the end of the race. Lewis Hamilton
(McLaren-Mercedes) leads the trio on 107 points, Fernando
Alonso (McLaren-Mercedes) is in second spot with 103 points
and third is Kimi Raikkonenen (Ferrari) on 100 points.
The name Interlagos comes from the Portuguese for ‘between
the lakes’ because the circuit was built in a natural bowl
which had two small lakes in it. Their position dictated the
layout of the 7.2 km track which was built in 1954 close to
Sao Paolo (Ayrton Senna’s home city).
Interlagos hosted the Brazilian GP from the first
non-championship race in 1972 through to 1980, with the
exception of 1978 when it was held in Rio de Janeiro. After
1980, it went to Rio again, until 1989 when it returned to
Interlagos, where it has remained.
This coincided with a new layout which retained the old
section on both sides of the start/finish line. The infield
kept the character of the original, but lap distance was
shortened from 7.2 km to 4.3 km. One of the new corners was
named after Ayrton Senna.
The official name of the circuit is the Autodromo Carlos
Pace in memory of Pace, the Brazilian who scored the only
Grand Prix win of his brief career at Interlagos in 1975.
The Brazilian GP has also been famous over the years for the
unruly crowd and circuit signs that fall down. With the time
difference between that side of the world and us, I believe
the event will begin at 11 p.m. on Sunday 21, but check your
local TV feed (and don’t believe the UBC catalogue which has
been erroneous recently!). I will be sitting on my perch in
front of the big screen in Jameson’s Irish Pub Soi AR, next
to Nova Park, so come and keep me company.
Who needs what to win
the F1 championship?
With Hamilton, Alonso and Raikkonen, the
combinations and permutations are almost endless (GP points
run 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1), but here goes:
If Hamilton wins or finishes second he is the World
If Hamilton finishes ahead of Alonso and Raikkonen, no
matter the position, he wins the title.
If Raikkonen doesn’t finish in the top two he can’t win the
If Alonso wins, Hamilton has to finish second to win the
But if Alonso wins the race and Hamilton is third, the
Spaniard retains the crown as even though they would both
have 113 points, Alonso would have more wins then Hamilton.
If Hamilton finishes fourth, Alonso must win the race to win
If Hamilton finishes fifth, Alonso also needs to win the
But if Hamilton finishes fifth and Alonso finishes second,
Hamilton would win the title as even though they would be
tied on points they would also be equal on P1s, P2s, P3s,
P4s and therefore the title would go down to the most number
of fifth placed finishes. And Hamilton’s P5 in Brazil would
be the one that won him the title.
If Hamilton finishes in the top five, Raikkonen cannot win
If Hamilton finishes sixth, Alonso needs a P2 or better to
If Hamilton finishes seventh and Alonso finishes third,
Hamilton would win based on a superior number of second
If Hamilton finishes eighth, Alonso needs to finish third to
If Hamilton doesn’t score any points, Alonso needs a fourth
or better to win.
But if Hamilton doesn’t score and Alonso only finishes
fifth, the title goes to Hamilton as he has more
second-placed finishes than Alonso. It will be an
interesting scrap, to put it mildly.
Last week I said we should try your Lamborghini
knowledge. By the way, it is “Lamborgeenee”, not
“Lamborjeenee”. The fore-runner of the Espada was the Marzal
which was displayed for the first time at the 1967 Geneva
Motor Show and was the show-stopper (it was, I was there and
sat in it). I asked last week what were the main differences
between the Marzal show car and the Espada production car?
The answer was that the Marzal was mid-engined 2 liter
straight six, while the Espada was front engined 4 liter
V12. The Espada came out in 1968 and production stopped in
1978 after 1217 Espadas had been made.
So to this week. The De Lorean had stainless steel panels.
Which current vehicle has a stainless steel panel too?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email email@example.com
Eco cars are coming
The Eco-car project is finally getting off the
ground in Thailand, with both Toyota and Honda jumping on
the bandwagon. The majority of the output will be for
export, but there will be a market in Thailand for the small
Honda has even further plans and wants to be Number 1 in
ASEAN and has set itself long range targets with new
assembly plants and expansion of existing facilities all
slated for 2008 in a 6.2 billion baht spending spree. 6.7
billion baht is earmarked for the eco-car project, but some
of that is in the plant expansion.
Exports have already shown a healthy upswing, with the
locally made Civic and CRV exports up by 22 percent. The new
Accord and the new Jazz are also coming in 2008, so it all
looks like being a Honda year.
Another company expanding is the Auto Alliance of Ford and
Mazda, with 17 billion baht to be used for a new small car
factory at the Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate plant,
with the Mazda2 rolling off the assembly lines in 2009 and
the Ford Fiesta shortly after that.
These two share the same platform and much of the running
gear, like the Mazda3 and the Ford Focus. The new plant will
have a capacity of 275,000 vehicles a year.
Afternoon with an Aston
As a car company, Aston Martin has had a
chequered history, garnering many motor racing wins, and
unfortunately, almost as many owners. By 1926, Lionel Martin
had lost control of his company to a W.S. Renwick and an
A.C. Bertelli. In 1933 it was saved from extinction by a
titled gentleman, Sir Arthur Sutherland KBE, and again in
1947 by the wealthy industrialist David Brown. After David
Brown, there was a succession of owners on the Aston Martin
letterhead until it was Ford Motor Company, who had also
picked up Jaguar, Volvo and Land Rover, and then put all
these brands together under the Premier Automotive Group
But it was not to end there. Aston Martin was again in the
news this year, when in March Aston Martin announced the
start of a new chapter in its illustrious history following
the financial news that the prestigious sports car
manufacturer had been sold by Ford to a consortium led by
David Richards of the British Prodrive company, John Sinders
a wealthy investor and an Aston Martin owner, and two Saudi
Arabian venture capitalists Investment Dar and Adeem
Investment, to end almost twenty years as part of Ford Motor
In a blow to BMW, Aston Martin was again chosen as James
Bond’s personal vehicle in the latest Bond movie Casino
Royale. Remember the multiple roll-over when James has to
avoid Vesper Lynd, lying on the road. Far from destroying
one pristine Aston Martin DBS, the shot took four very tatty
development hack DB9’s to complete, and a couple of BMW 5
The stunt was done at 120 km/h and once the Aston hit the
grass, it dug in and just kept rolling, shedding pieces of
bodywork and a wheel until it came to rest, right side up,
lights still twinkling and established a new Guinness World
Record for the most cannon rolls in a car. An astonishing
seven complete turns. The stunt driver was also unhurt!
However, enough of the movie make-believe. Here is the real
deal. An Aston Martin DB9 Volante. To begin with, this is no
fancy bodywork slapped over a pedestrian saloon. This is a
purpose-designed and built open sports coupe.
Enginewise, the DB9 sports a six litre V12 which is, as
tradition would demand, up front, but brought as far back as
possible to end up with a 50/50 weight distribution between
front and rear axles. This is Aston Martin’s own engine, but
has been re-engineered for the DB9, with a new crankshaft,
cams, manifold, and engine-management system for more
midrange torque. For a relatively light car, coming through
the extensive use of aluminium, the torque figure of 567 Nm
is more than enough to keep a push in your back through to
its top whack of a smidgin under 300 km/h.
The habitacle is fairly typical Aston Martin, in being
presented as a 2+2 option, but the 147 mm longer wheelbase
means there is a little more room, mainly for the driver and
front passenger. The front and rear bucket seats are also
swathed in the obligatory leather, giving that wonderful
smell on opening the doors; however, the rears are suitable
for legless midgets only.
Driving this car was an experience. To test such a machine,
you cannot take it on public roads to experience the full
capabilities, so it was taken to the Prince Bira
International circuit just outside Pattaya. And it rained,
to make the test even more exciting.
I can vouch for the rigidity of the open-top body, no
scuttle shake being evident at any time, and is really a
tribute to the V-H chassis. The seats were firm, but you
would not need to be over 90 kg, as it could get ‘squeezy’.
If you floor the accelerator, the engine note changes from a
throaty purr to an absolute growl, and with almost 450 bhp
or 335 kW you will reach 100 km/h in under five seconds.
Make no mistake, this is a super-car.
The ZF semi-manual six-speed gearbox can be used like a
manual, but without a clutch pedal. It has all the
electronic ‘smarts’ so that when you are downshifting it
gives the engine that professional ‘blip’ to synchronize the
revs, and if you insist, it will hold any gear right the way
through to red-line. Even on the race track, the electronics
knew when to hold the gear and all I had to do was steer the
car between the walls!
On the down-side, the low roofline means that taller drivers
will be rubbing on the underside of the roof, and there are
many blind spots. A very low seating position also means
that the driver does not see all the bonnet, and similar to
the E-Type Jaguars, I am sure many DB9’s will get dented
noses. And no, I didn’t!
If you are looking for exclusivity, a super-car with
history, and a vehicle that turns heads. The DB9 Volante is
Just one small matter left. You will need around 22 million
baht in the piggy bank.