Spanish GP this weekend
Spain has a long history in GP racing,
and the Catalunya circuit (aka Montmelo) was built just 20
km from Barcelona. It was actually the fourth circuit in, or
near, Barcelona, which has some claim to being Spain’s
capital of motor racing.
The Circuit Catalunya was opened in 1991, the 5 km circuit
was quick and had both a wide range of corners and excellent
facilities and viewing points. A temporary chicane was built
at ‘Nissan’ (a very shallow curve) in 1994, but for 1995,
‘Nissan’ was straightened reducing the length of a lap to
the 5 km length.
I will be watching in front of the big screen in Jameson’s
Irish Pub (Soi AR, next to Nova Park). The race will start
at 7 p.m. but I will get there early and have some dinner
from the Jameson’s carvery. Why not join me for dinner and a
beer before the race?
The local Spanish fans will of course be going lunatic over
Alonso, the sulky Spaniard, but it will take Moses and
several miracles to get Alonso on the podium. However,
Renault are saying they will have some new aerodynamic bits
by then which will improve the car’s performance. This is
correct; unfortunately, every other team has new go-faster
bits as well. However, you can expect Renault to qualify
well, with Alonso’s car running on the smell of an oily rag
to get him up there, but the race will be a different
The questions are: can Button grab another win before the
others catch up? And with the Red Bull of Vettel already
right up there, without the trick double-decker diffuser,
what will he be like when he gets one?
Porsche 911 GT3
The best Porsche I have ever driven (and raced)
was the 1973 RS Carrera. This was the most powerful
naturally aspirated Porsche ever made (up till then) and was
2.7 liters of mechanical dynamite. When you came in after a
good lap, you knew that you had done well. The car was your
passport to greatness, as you had tamed a mighty beast.
After that, the 911 series became more and more civilized
and refined every year, and by the time they brought out the
horrible understeering Carrera 4, all the enjoyment had
gone. However, Porsche has not forgotten how to make a
beast, and the new 911 GT3 is it.
This is a car that takes 4.1 seconds to reach 100 km/h, with
a top speed of 193 mph (that’s around 310 km/h) - by
comparison, the old 2.7 RS Carrera had a top speed of 155
The engine is now 3.8 liters and develops 435 bhp at 7,600
RPM. Suspension is stiffened, the brakes are bigger than
ever and the transmission gearwheels have been lightened,
while the seven-speed double-clutch transmission that’s now
in lesser 911s was ruled out because it would add 66 lb to
the car’s weight.
The new GT3 is a worthy successor to the 1973 RS Carrera,
and I want one!
Last week I asked which three top level
motorcycle racers also raced in F1? The answer was John
Surtees, Mike Hailwood and Ken Kavanagh, although there is
controversy over Kavanagh, as to whether he ‘raced’ in a GP,
as opposed to practice and non-championship events in a
Maserati 250F, for example at Aintree where he raced against
Moss, Brabham, Brooks, Graham Hill and Bruce McLaren.
So to this week. I mentioned muscle cars in this week’s
column. 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.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email email@example.com
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 (May
11) 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. Come along and meet guys who have
a common interest in cars and bikes, and enjoy the Jameson’s
Steak night special, washed down with a few beers. I saw an
immaculate MG TF in Pattaya the other day, and hopefully it
has an XPAG engine, and not a Toyota!
So you can’t afford a GT3, which would have to be
around 20 million baht landed, what about a Secma Roadster?
Next question, what’s a Secma?
The Secma is a French sports car which they say puts 20th
century fun back into early 21st century driving, and
looking at the photograph that came with this item, they
could be right.
The car has been available in France for six months, where
sales of the hand-made F16 have bucked current market trends
and created a two month waiting list.
The Secma F16 is priced from 750,000 baht (in the UK), and
is made to order. It has a 1.6 liter Renault petrol engine
developing 105 bhp and achieves 0 to 100 km/h in 5.7
seconds, and has a top speed of 170 km/h.
It is a no-frills two seater, similar in concept in many
ways to the Lotus 7 clones with rear wheel drive, but with
up to the minute styling.
The body is a roto-moulded monocoque body of high strength
polyethylene. Body and instrument panel color impregnated
It is small, being 2.8 m long, 1.7 m wide and only 1.1 m
high. All up weight is 657 kg, which explains its
performance from such a relatively low power engine.
Pontiac has been part of the American scene since
1926, but is now headed for the scrap heap. This will have
repercussions throughout the industry.
How much will you now have to pay for a 2009 Pontiac G8
Police Special? Well since the spare parts are being held in
Australia, I think the going price will be very low, and
since GM will stop selling Pontiac in 2010, the answer
should be very, very low!
Yes, Pontiac, the great name in front of the iconic letters
GTO is being killed by GM as part of its restructuring plan.
But this was not the first time that GM had tried to scrap
In January 24, 1963 a memo came from the top which banned
all racing activities. GM outlawed anything to do with
speed, racing or performance. This was shattering to the
Pontiac division which had built up its sales on the
performance image and the GTO was the top of the tree.
The rule stated that all cars would have
to weigh ten or more pounds per cubic inch of engine
displacement. Even as the memo was being written, work was
underway to put a 389 cubic inch motor in the Pontiac
Tempest, which at 3400 lbs., would be in clear violation of
the edict. Leading the effort was Pontiac chief engineer
John Z. DeLorean (who many years later would start his own
car company, only to end in failure and law suits).
The January 24 memo contained a loophole, however. Although
new models required corporate approval, decisions regarding
options only needed a nod at the division level. The Pontiac
GTO, as introduced in the 1964 model year, was actually an
option on the Pontiac Tempest Le Mans. Credit for convincing
GM’s top brass to let the GTO exist, which may have met the
letter of the law but not the spirit, goes to Pontiac
general manager Elliot “Pete” Estes. Ferrari also has to be
thanked, as Pontiac ‘lifted’ the GTO name from the Ferrari
GTO of 1962.
That was a good move by Estes as the Pontiac GTO sold 32,450
cars in 1964. Other manufacturers took note of the trend and
produced their own performance offerings (such as the Ford
Mustang), but the Pontiac was the first of the ‘muscle
The American legend became diluted in 2004 when production
shifted to Australia and the new Pontiac G8 was really only
a rebadged Holden Monaro, which despite getting the
monstrous LS2 V8, did not sell well.
After axing Pontiac, Saab and Hummer will be the next to go!
Farewell GM, the once mighty giant slowly strangled by poor
New car for the PM?
Having had the back window of one of his cars
broken by a motorcycle helmet, and the prime ministerial
Mercedes-Benz badly damaged in the rioting spree in the
capital, perhaps PM Abhisit should be looking at the new
AK47-resistant BMW X5.
BMW has revealed what it says is the world’s first vehicle
to resist bullets from the world’s most popular assault
rifle, the AK47.
In a departure from its tradition of building armored
vehicles based on the 7 Series limousine, the Bavarian brand
says its new X5 Security Plus, complies with the
requirements of bullet resistance Class 6.
According to BMW, that makes it the first vehicle produced
by a high-volume manufacturer to offer a security concept
aimed at lessening the danger of attacks using the world’s
most widely used weapon, the AK47.
The four-seat X5 SP is billed as the perfect vehicle in
which to cope effortlessly with demanding situations, both
on-road and off.
Its passenger compartment is protected by high-performance
steel molded components, while its bodyshell features sealed
joints and high-security glass covered with a polycarbonate
“The professional protection concept for the new BMW X5
Security Plus is designed to combat criminal threats such as
robbery, abduction or carjacking; however, additionally for
employment in hot spots in which the AK47 has become a
typical firearm used by assailants,” says BMW.
“The BMW X5 Security Plus offers comprehensive protection
against these kinds of attacks. Its security features were
devised exclusively for this model and thoroughly tested
within the framework of product development. The integration
of the protective components was effected parallel to the
series development of the BMW X5.” (I wonder if it has
automated red-shirt recognition software as well?)
What a wonderful world we live in!