Korean GP this weekend
Korean GP circuit
Having been given the final OK from the FIA leas than two
weeks ago, the inaugural Korean Grand Prix is on this weekend. There has
been much conjecture as to whether the Grand Prix would go ahead, as the
circuit fell behind in its completion date. Many reasons were touted,
including the weather and public holidays! And in addition, the fact that
the asphalt laying company hadn’t done a race circuit before. For me this
spells disaster, which I hope will not happen - but I have very strong
I have raced before on new ‘green’ asphalt and the oil
comes to the surface, to make it very slippery. The top layer, as it is not
‘cured’, does not adhere properly to the lower layers and starts to form
‘ripples’ in the braking areas. This eventually leads to the top layer
breaking up and great chunks of asphalt come off, leaving pot holes. All
very dangerous. I can only hope that the above scenario does not happen -
but if it does - I told you so!
The circuit has been designed by Hermann Tilke, the man
who sketched many of the most boring circuits in the history of motor
racing. Will this one be better? With all the tight corners, I am not sure
there will be much passing; however, I am confident that Kamikaze Kobayashi
will have no problems!
On paper, the favorites for the front row have to be
Vettel and Webber in the Red Bulls, but then the other usual front runners
will be snapping at their heels - Ferrari (Alonso) and McLaren (Button and
I will be watching from my usual perch at Jameson’s Irish
Pub, Soi AR, next to Nova Park for the new Grand Prix. Now, important - with
the time differential between here and Korea, the race on Sunday starts at 1
p.m. Thai time. Qualifying on the Saturday is 12 noon. Join us for lunch and
a couple of jars before the red lights go out.
Mazda Zoom-Zooming along
Mazda sales are ticking along quite nicely, thank you. Up
a whopping 242 percent year on year. That gives the Japanese brand just
short of five percent of the local market with their total vehicle sales of
25,763 (the Mazda2 contributing 17,000 units) in the first nine months of
2010, almost twice the sales of Chevrolet (13,706 units) and almost four
times that of Ford (7,084). It may be of interest to the other manufacturers
that Mazda was the only automaker to contact our editorial office in the
past year and offer me a car to test. They naturally benefitted from this.
Russian interest in an F1 circuit
Russia is making a renewed bid to bring Formula 1 racing
to Russia, with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone agreeing terms for a Grand Prix
to be held in 2014, the same year that Sochi, the Black Sea resort hosts the
According to reports, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin, whose backing was crucial in Sochi winning the right to host the
Winter Olympics, has signed an agreement for work to begin on the
construction of a new 200 million dollar circuit.
Bernie Ecclestone, bless him and his three inch
grow-shoes, said, “The document has still not been signed but when the
appropriate person from Russia signs it, I will sign it the next day.” He
has 40 million good reasons as to why he will jump in a jet and sign the
document as the annual fee Russia will pay for hosting a Grand Prix would be
around 40 million dollars, the same usury as paid by Singapore and Abu
Dhabi. Well, our Vlad did sign it, and so has Bernie, though the first GP
might be 2015, rather than 2014.
The project of showcasing Formula 1 at a completely new
circuit in Sochi’s Olympic Park has also raised questions over how Russia
can jump from hosting virtually no races of importance to the biggest of
them all. However, with many Russian drivers competing in different classes
in Europe, by 2014 some of them should be in F1 by then, and a small slice
of the 200 million dollar budget would get them into a bottom of the grid
team such as HRT (which is unlikely to still be around by 2014).
I spotted a new Bentley the other day and could not help
thinking they are all starting to look a bit ponderous. Now it was many
years ago that Ettore Bugatti described the Bentleys as “The fastest lorries
in the world” after they had won the Le Mans 24 Hour race in 1924, 1927,
1928, 1929 and 1930. Not bad for a truck.
The latest from Bentley Motors, in Crewe, England is the
Mulsanne, the company’s all-new flagship grand tourer, which was released at
the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance in Monterey, California.
The Mulsanne is apparently inspired by the company
founder W.O. Bentley’s crowning achievement in 1930, the 8 liter. This early
motoring masterpiece represented the last big Bentley that was designed,
engineered and built from the ground up by Bentley engineers - but what the
press release did not mention was the fact that the 8 liter brought the
company undone financially.
Nearly 80 years later, while paying respect to this
illustrious past, the new Mulsanne is a thoroughly modern statement of
luxury driving and grand touring. Conceived, styled and engineered entirely
at Bentley’s headquarters in Crewe, England, the Mulsanne, with its
completely new and unique platform, goes into production next year.
Introducing the Bentley Mulsanne at Pebble Beach, where
Bentley was the featured marque, Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen, chairman and chief
executive of Bentley Motors, said, “The challenge we set our engineers was
to create a new grand Bentley that would stand as the pinnacle of British
luxury motoring, offering the world’s most exclusive driving experience.
They have responded to this challenge with real passion and the result is a
luxury grand tourer that sets new standards in terms of comfort, effortless
performance and hand-crafted refinement - the very qualities for which
Bentley is renowned.
“From the very first hand sketches in the styling studio,
we were inspired by the traditions of the grand touring Bentleys and have
sought to evolve this story for a new generation of Bentley enthusiasts.”
The return of the Mulsanne name to a car carrying
Bentley’s iconic ‘Winged B’ emblem underlines the company’s racing pedigree
and nowhere reflects that heritage better than the famed Le Mans circuit,
the scene of no fewer than five original Bentley triumphs. Few places offer
a stronger or more emotive connection with the Bentley marque than the famed
The Bentley 8 liter that was displayed alongside the
Mulsanne in California was first shown at the 1930 London Motor Show. It was
the second-built and was W.O. Bentley’s company car for two years. A total
of 100 cars were built in 1930 and 1931.
“The 8 liter’s breathtaking performance and quality was
perhaps the finest example of a ‘pure’ grand Bentley. Every mechanical
detail carried W.O. Bentley’s unique stamp and it was the clearest
demonstration of a car built without compromise,” commented Dr. Ulrich
Eichhorn, member of the Board of Engineering.
“The Mulsanne has been designed with exactly the same
guiding principles, so it is entirely fitting that these Bentleys from
different eras share the same stage.”
All that may be so - but it still looks very ponderous.
Last week I asked what car was released at the Earls
Court Motor Show in 1956 and weighed 61 kg? It was then, the world’s
smallest car, and may even be so today. It was the Breutsch Mopetta, 170 cm
long, 88 cm wide and weighed in at 61 kg. Opel were interested at one stage,
but their version never went past prototype stage. Mo Bertrand was first in
So to this week. It is so difficult to produce questions
that are not immediately answered by Mr. Google, so this week I want you to
identify the car in this photograph, and what year is it?
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first
correct answer to email email@example.com
The new Ford Ranger
The new Ford Ranger (and the Mazda BT-50 close relative)
was released at the Sydney Motor Show in Australia last week. This is a new
vehicle which was designed and developed in Australia for the world market,
but will be manufactured here in Thailand, with production slated for next
Everyone has been a little coy about the specifications
of the new vehicle, but FoMoCo people I have spoken to are all in agreement
that this will be a ground-breaking pick-up. Some details have been released
including the availability of side and curtain airbags, a reversing camera,
rear parking radar, Trailer Sway Control and Adaptive Load Control systems.
The engines include a 2.5 liter inline four cylinder
Duratec petrol unit producing 122 kW of power at 6000rpm and 226 Nm of
torque, and two common-rail turbo-diesels - a 2.2 liter four cylinder that
delivers 110 kW at 3700 rpm and 375 Nm between 1500 and 2500 rpm, and a 3.2
liter inline five cylinder from the current Ford Transit van developing 147
kW at 3000 rpm and 470 Nm at 2750 rpm.
Most diesel models will be mated to six-speed
transmissions in MT82 manual or 6R80 torque-converter automatic forms, with
the latter offering manual control through a sequential manual shifting gate
(a unique feature in the class, according to Ford), Grade Control Logic that
downshifts the gearbox for additional braking, and driver-adaptive software.
An electric-locking rear differential is available on
diesel 4x2 and 4x4 models, in combination with ABS brakes with EBD, and
electronic stability control, which also includes traction control, yaw
control and rollover mitigation. Ford claims the brakes - discs up front and
drums at the rear - are the biggest in class.
Look out for this new pick-up. It looks good on paper.